'Talent trumps all......"
A few mornings ago I walked into a bustling coffeehouse in the heart of the Arts District in Las Vegas to meet a man who is equally at home talking with Grammy-award winning bands with millions of records sold, or giving a newly formed band gems of advice to cull for inspiration and direction at their leisure. His office can be the green room at a music festival with thousands of fans just outside the red rope, an airport parking lot in asphalt jungles of Southern California or his Emmy award winning showroom that generates over 100 million views a week online. His work requires a unique brand of professionalism that is equal parts cheerleader, ambassador, father figure, medicine man and business guru.
His name is Patrick Genovese. Patrick is part of the Entertainment Relations team for Gibson Brands. A three-billion-dollar-a-year company that has had guitars, amps, mics and recording gear on the most famous names in music over the past one hundred years of popular music. Gibson maintains a who’s who of artist that live and die by their guitars made popular by guitar icon Les Paul (amongst others) and now has many other brands and products under their banner. Today Gibson earns another reputation: patience. I am late…and the three billion dollar man is waiting for me.
Patrick’s background comes from planning events, concerts, fundraisers and more in the civic setting. “My job isn’t a 9-5 sort of thing. I keep business hours, but nothing about it is 9-5. My former career was exactly that, but it drove me crazy.” My curiosity gets the better of me and I inquire just what is his job? “My job is to get Gibson products placed in TV, print, press, videos and anywhere else our products can be seen. I also have artists I work with.”
"You don't have to have a Grammy..."
We dive head first into what many musicians inquire with him about: Sponsorships and Endorsements. “You don’t have top have a Grammy, millions of Twitter followers or even a huge record deal. Talent trumps all, and if you have done your homework, you’re going to earn a higher chance of a a closer look from somebody in my position.”
He takes a sip of his black coffee as it cools and I have to ask, ”What is most important piece of the puzzle a band should have in talking with you?” Patrick puts down his coffee and a half smile spreads across his youthful face, “Be nice. If it’s your manager reaching out, a record label, or the keyboard player. Be nice. I won’t work with an a-hole, I don’t care who they are.”
“If a band is talking with a company they should be able to say at least these two things: Here is my body of work and I’d like to speak about x, y or z with you.” I stay quiet to spur Patrick further and it works. “The body of work should be videos with a product, a tutorial, performance, a blog, a review. One of our artists I work with made a three-minute product review on his own accord and it blew me away! That’s the stuff that will get my attention.”
Patrick on what an endorsement means to him: “An endorsement needs to come from both sides. The artist and the company. The artist needs to make the company visible. The stage. The website. Social media. There are a lot of avenues to find success and provide that visibility for the company. It’s not just sending a guitar or amp to an artist and calling it a day. You would be surprised how many bands don’t have ownership of that small detail.”
So what can make a band lose their endorsement? Patrick considers his answer and chooses his words carefully, “Bands haven’t delivered what they promised, or we have had artist’s products discontinued because sales were low. We have lent gear to bands before and had the guitars come back destroyed.” “Destroyed?” I ask. “Destroyed. I understand that wear and tear happens, but these were painted, chipped, dropped and cracked…..They lost my support, and in turn Gibson’s.”
“I love working with bands. In the challenge lays the fun. What can I do to help? What is the band going to do to help us? There has to be a relationship. There should be a clear-cut idea of who is doing what. Open ended promises on either end of the conversation don’t work.”
The lunch crowd is now in full effect. Yoga students from the studio next door stand in line behind law clerks and delivery drivers. I am scribbling notes and finishing a word cloud when Patrick interrupts my thought. “Accountability.” I ask if that is the start or end of a sentence. “Accountability between an artist and a company goes a long way. I will call a band on the carpet if they haven’t delivered, and I would expect them to do the same to me. “ A few tables over a table of girls are buried in the cell phones while their salads wilt.
Patrick picks up his coffee but uses it more as a visual aide than beverage of choice as he explains one of the greatest teachers in the business. “Failure is a great thing. It’s not an endgame, it’s a great teacher and allows you to learn. I help bands, but I won’t hold their hand.”
I pay the check and Patrick excuses himself to answer one of the dozens of calls that has stacked up since we sat down together. He comes back and I ask him what two things a young artist should do when communicating about forming a partnership with a company. Patrick zips ups his hoodie and we walk outside into the now-early afternoon sunshine. “Be cool and be real.” I thank him for his time and Patrick starts to his car and drives away. I start my own car and finish up my notes on the interview as my engine idles and secure key moments and details Patrick articulated to my notepad. Armchair journalist/blogger and professional musician or not….Patrick was right….accountability is key.
Special thanks to Patrick Genovese from Gibson Brands for his time and making this interview possible. ---Just Alliance, Las Vegas, Nevada, February 2016
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Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.