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How To: Find the Next Hall & Oates

 

Tommy Mottola, co-owner of Casablanca Records and former head of Sony Music Entertainment, on how to be a legendary hit maker.


Illustration by John Ueland

Know How to Carry a Tune
“Most people who want to be music executives simply have an appreciation of music, but I had the training ground of being an artist and a music publisher. I could tell what was a good song that would also be commercial. So by the time two odd-looking guys from Philadelphia walked into my office and played me their songs, which were so original and extra­ordinary, I knew they’d be a hit. Those two guys happened to be Hall & Oates.”

Stay Out of Springsteen’s Hair
“When Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen is playing you his new music, you just sit back, listen, and know that you’re hearing greatness. You may have some comments about what the first single should be, but that’s about it. If it’s an artist like Jennifer Lopez—someone with big potential putting out her first record—then you can say, ‘This is what you need to do’ and have a bunch of producers and songwriters lined up and ready to go.”

Be Ready and Willing to Sell Out
“When we had a hit, we’d sell 20 million because we did some un­likely things, like taking on major corporate sponsorships that gave us millions of extra dollars and working with television networks to create specials for our stars. Mariah, Celine, Gloria, Ricky…They all had major television specials. That little tube is the biggest marketing tool you could ever have.”

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