Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's in a musicians DNA.....

Came across this article flipping thru the Sunday Star Bulletin. It's true. It's true. It's in the blood and the blood still and will continue to flow thru a musicians' veins until it's time to meet our maker. What can you do? Good article by Mr. Ethan Smith on some big names and very, very successful people. Jim Allchin, head of Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division.
Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft is known to join in jam sessions at industry conventions. James Dolan, the Cablevision CEO plays Led Zeppelin covers at a local bar.

CEOs who chase rock-star fantasies
Friday, July 28, 2006

By Ethan Smith, The Wall Street Journal

The scene at J.D. & the Straight Shot's New York gig was typical for an up-and-coming blues band. The group played a mix of original material and covers by the likes of Little Feat and the Allman Brothers Band and took good-natured digs at each other between songs.

Like many other struggling musicians, the 51-year-old J.D. has a day job. Only James Dolan is president and chief executive of Cablevision Systems Corp., a $5.2 billion publicly traded media conglomerate.

Meet the new boss: He's playing Led Zeppelin covers until closing time at the neighborhood bar and recording CDs in the basement. From the president of buyout firm Wasserstein & Co. to the White House chief of staff, baby boomers at the top of their professions are refusing to give up their youthful rock-star fantasies. The garage bands of the mid-1970s have moved into boardrooms, some of which are now filled with people who as kids dreamed of being the next Hendrix, Page or Townshend -- and who today still have the same dreams.

These executives have attained enough success that they have the flexibility for band rehearsals and regular shows, and the money for professional-quality instruments and studio equipment. The music industry has taken note and stepped up its marketing pitch to middle-aged, part-time players, helping contribute to a recent jump in guitar sales. A few services have sprung up that offer practice rooms for amateurs and promise to connect prospective bandmates. One is aimed specifically at businesspeople.

"No matter how much money you make or what you do, everybody wants to be Keith Richards," says Charlie Mangano, the 52-year-old rhythm guitarist in the Rolling Bones, a Rolling Stones cover band. By day, he is a consultant to financial-information Web site Minyanville.com and the former director of marketing and communications at Deutsche Bank Asset Management.

The moonlighting rockers include high-ranking lawyers, department heads of major corporations and the presidents of international real-estate and leveraged-buyout companies. Paul Allen, founder of Vulcan Inc. and co-founder of Microsoft Corp., has been known to join in jam sessions during cable-industry conventions.

"It's like my secret double life," says Bruce Meyer, 45, a litigator who plays lead guitar in two cover bands. "I go from being a corporate lawyer to standing ankle-deep in beer and playing Kiss songs."

It's impossible to say how many corporate stars are doubling as would-be rock stars, but they aren't hard to find. Joshua Bolten, chief of staff to President Bush, winks at his boss's political agenda with the name of the band he plays bass for: the Compassionates. A used copy of the self-titled debut album by Paul Allen's band, the Grown Men, fetches nearly $70 on Amazon.com. The cover shows a headband-wearing baby lighting a guitar on fire, a la Jimi Hendrix.

Gregg Raybin, a former corporate lawyer in New York, helped form a "dating service for musicians," which is aimed at professional workers who are amateur players. The service has resulted in 20 to 30 bands in the New York area, about half of which play public gigs. Formed with a $100,000 initial investment pooled from about 25 member-partners, the organization offers match-making services and rehearsal time in midtown Manhattan for $349 a year per bandmate. Of the 250 members, about 80 percent are male.

NAMM, a trade group for instrument makers and retailers, has created a program called Weekend Warriors, billed as a way to get "non-active musicians back on stage to relive their fantasies of superstardom." The program's 21 locations, in cities such as St. Louis, Boulder, Colo., and Louisville, Ky., provide space and instruments -- partly as a way to entice participants to buy new equipment.

Joe Lamond, president and chief executive of NAMM, calls playing music "kind of the fountain of youth." The association doesn't track the average age of buyers, but Mr. Lamond says middle-aged, part-time musicians are an increasingly important target of the industry's marketing efforts. Last year, retail guitar sales in the U.S. rose 13 percent, to $1.1 billion.

Taylor Guitars considers baby boomers "the core of the business," says Jonathan Forstot, director of marketing. Buyers over 35 account for 75 percent of the company's customers, while buyers over 50 account for a third of all sales -- a fact that isn't lost in its advertising. One recent print ad reads, "It's a lot less stressful when your wife and your groupie are the same person."

The proliferation of corporate rockers is partly a function of the additional time and money that results from a successful career. Mr. Meyer, the guitarist and a litigator at Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP who has represented Walt Disney Co., GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Westinghouse Electric Co., has built a collection of electric guitars to compensate for what he couldn't afford as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania. "I played the same crappy guitar through the same crappy amp," he says. "Now that I can afford decent equipment I'm making up for that." Today, he owns a half-dozen guitars, including a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Telecaster.

"It's tough earlier in your career to find time to play," says George Majoros, the 44-year-old president and chief operating officer of leveraged-buyout firm Wasserstein & Co., who also has played drums in the Rolling Bones for nine years. Still, he says that in terms of satisfaction and adrenaline, a music gig "is never going to compare to a big LBO." He has recently been involved in acquisitions of Mastercraft Boat Co. and Harry & David Operations Corp.

Mr. Dolan, the Cablevision CEO, says he's easily able to juggle his gigs and his day job. At work, his recent duties included picking a coach for the New York Knicks and directing upgrades on his company's Internet-telephone service. For the band's faraway gigs, Mr. Dolan hops aboard the private jet he leases from his employer, letting band mates tag along. "It's not unusual for me to go from a hotel room and on the computer dealing with what's going on at the office, directly to the stage," he says.

For the Rolling Bones, getting paid in something besides beer makes the fantasy all the more real -- they make about $2,000 a night for friends' parties and up to $4,500 for a corporate gig. "We're better negotiators in our business deals than in our band deals," concedes Mr. Majoros. "We're always cutting the price just to get a chance to play more."

Others are emphatic that being able to rock and roll all night remains a priority -- even if their high-powered careers no longer allow them to party every day. Jimmy Kuhn, 58, says his job as president of the international real-estate firm Newmark Knight Frank can take a back seat to playing keyboards in the Square Feeet, a classic-rock cover band whose five members are all real-estate executives. "Everybody knows you don't schedule a meeting Tuesday nights after 6 o'clock," he says. "Because band rehearsal comes before business."

Hank Goldsmith, a 43-year-old partner in the litigation department at Proskauer Rose LLP, actually tried to make it as a musician in the mid-1980s. Today, he's content to play bass in Newspaper Taxis, a Beatles tribute band. (His previous venture: Abbey Roadkill.) He sees parallels between lawyering and rocking. "Every litigator is a performer, anyway," he says. "You want to capture the room and you want to close big."

Some executives find that they can't mesh their busy schedules with other similarly harried colleagues -- a problem that has helped give rise to the well-funded home studio. Allen Merrill, the head of global business development for MasterCard Advisors, the consulting arm of MasterCard Worldwide, has tried to form bands in the past. "There's never really enough time to develop," he says.

Instead, he's nearly finished recording his second album of songs he's written and performed himself, using professional-grade equipment at his home in East Hampton, N.Y. He has a climate-controlled room to house his collection of high-end classical, flamenco and vintage electric guitars. Mr. Merrill's first disc, "Close to You," sold about 1,500 copies, most of them through a local record store.

Whether corporate rockdom is admired or mocked at the office is a matter of interpretation. At home, it can cut into time spent on children and other family commitments, as well as raising a unique X-factor: While playing music is meant to be cool, your own children sometimes shield their eyes.

"I did offer to have my band play at one of my daughter's dorm parties," says the Rolling Bones' Mr. Mangano. "She politely turned me down."

Still, Chip Fournier, the 52-year-old senior vice president for employment law at NBC Universal, says joining his cover band, Cropduster, has been good for maintaining a happy home. "As ways of dealing with a midlife crisis go, it's cheaper than a Ferrari," he says, "and less disruptive to family life than a mistress."

For CEOs About to Rock ...

We Salute You Some executive rock stars might want to hold on to their day jobs. Below, a sampling of opinions about their musical careers.

EXECUTIVE/COMPANY/TITLE: Paul Allen Vulcan Inc./Founder
BAND/POSITION: Grown Men/Guitar
COMMENT: "It's like a bad Eagles cover band who's now doing originals," complains one Amazon.com reviewer. "Rock + Money
Shlock." Other feedback on the site is more favorable.

EXECUTIVE/COMPANY/TITLE: Jimmy Kuhn Newmark Knight Frank/President
BAND/POSITION: Square Feeet/Keyboards
COMMENT: Singing "Who Let the Dogs Out" at band's first gig, "my dad put on a fake Jamaican accent," recalls son Joey, 21. "It was so not age-appropriate." Band now sticks to classic rock.

EXECUTIVE/COMPANY/TITLE: Bruce Meyer Weil, Gotshal & Manges/Partner
BAND/POSITION: Newspaper Taxis, Tastes Like Chicken/Guitar
COMMENT: Wife Jackie says, "He leaves at night and comes back early in the morning. Some people don't understand how I can let him stay out so late."

BAND/POSITION: J.D. & the Straight Shot/Lead vocals, rhythm guitar
COMMENT: Gabelli & Co. analyst Christopher Marangi, whose firm holds a significant stake in Cablevision, isn't worried about the band being a distraction: "They have very strong business managers."

EXECUTIVE/COMPANY/TITLE: George Majoros Wasserstein & Co./President and COO
BAND/POSITION: Rolling Bones/Drums
COMMENT: Band recently played a party for financial-services company Dreyfus Service Corp. "Paying them is about the price of scalping one Rolling Stones ticket," says Dreyfus President Tom Eggers.


(Hannah Karp contributed to this article.)


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