Anything for a Hit, The Music Industry . . . The Madness And The Rules
The biography “Anything for a Hit” is written about surviving the music industry by the first woman A&R Executive in the history of Atlantic Records. However, don’t get too excited! Atlantic Records was founded in 1947 and it wasn’t until well into the ‘90s that Dorothy Carvello held that title.
Born into a middle-class, tough Italian family in Brooklyn, New York, she was the first woman at Atlantic to move in the circles of the most powerful movers and shakers in the music industry
Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it? Read on.
I recently spoke with Carvello from her home in New York where she spoke of her experience chasing the bullet to number one. So let’s reflect now on how her career began.
Carvello started as an assistant to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. Imagine sitting in on the most monumental meetings shaping the music and the talent of the label, only to be smacked down, humiliated, overlooked and punished for being female.
A woman who could run the company but, in a room full of men, was subjected to numerous scenarios and situations that today you would be arrested for. Fighting the misogynistic, self-indulgent egomaniacs of all-male executives around her was one thing, but on more than one occasion she had to physically defend herself.
For all her hard work and dedication, she was labelled with the nickname “Bossy Bebe” by her coworkers. Women were seen only as accruements even though she was producing results. The old boys’ thick as thieves network pretended to let her in, but never did.
Proving her team spirit, Carvello brought the attention of the label to a young band that Atlantic signed and out of the gate became multi-platinum selling rock stars.
The male co-worker, whom she worked with on the deal, received a brand-new, high-end car from the label as a bonus for signing the act and her . . . a cheque for $1,200.
Work friendships forged through the years always came to a ‘me or you’ situation that never worked in her favour.
As Carvello puts it: “the betrayal to me was of monumental proportions.”
Make no mistake — Carvello was a sharp female executive producing million-dollar results, but to them, she was invisible and should have known her place.
Holding up her hands for mistakes and lessons learned, she had a few cringe-worthy forgivable moments; however, this was nothing compared to what was done to her by executives and so-called “friends”.
Not to make excuses, but when you’re neck-deep in the rarefied air of rock star egos, testosterone, money entitled, powerful men — mixed in with a lot of free drugs, alcohol and a group you’re marginally part of — well, ya’ make mistakes.
After a particularly ugly incident, Carvello said enough is enough and went to human resources where she was guaranteed she would not lose her job nor be punished for speaking up.
In her book Anything for a Hit she writes how time and time again she was subjected to sexist racists, homophobic and toxic workplaces, no matter what record label she was at.
How brave is she to write this book? She names, names! Many of those people are still prominent in the industry, yet not one has come after her.Carvello sadly reveals that female coworkers didn’t help her or each other. Some even went out of their way to sabotage her success out of jealousy.
“Anything for a Hit” came out at the height of the “Me Too” movement. You would think the general media, especially women’s groups, would be lauding her book, but few have taken an interest. It’s called closing ranks in the executive circles.
To their credit, Atlantic Records, now owned by Time Warner, supported Carvello’s book. They wanted people to know they are not that kind of company anymore.
When the book came out, Carvello did hit a nerve though as she received numerous emails and had a lot of conversations with, not only women, but also men who said they experienced the same situations.
Carvello holds no grudges and pays it forward with simple street-smart guidelines, for a better work-life balance that no one ever told her. Luckily, she shares them with her readers and they are listed here . . .
1. Don’t be a smart ass unless you’re already a millionaire, as it most likely won’t work in your favour.
2. Always put the max in your 401(k) and pension plans. The bastards can fire you, but that doesn’t mean you have to be out on your butt.
3. Take criticism and don’t be defensive, sometimes people are just trying to help.
4. If you make a mistake own it and move on unless you are very rich. You’ll probably have to pay for your mistakes, but if you do it honourably, people will take note of that.
5. Be loyal to the pay cheque, not the corporation. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but the corporate bosses are rarely your friends.
6. Don’t gossip, people will hate you.
7. Play golf — all the men do.
8. Be a team player. Don’t be petty or jealous of someone else’s success.
9. Be honest. In a dishonest world people will notice.
10. Deliver bad news immediately.
11. Don’t invite someone to a concert the night before you plan on firing her!
(Read Anything for a Hit, I’m telling you)
12. Don’t %^&* (sleep with), date, or marry anyone you work with. If you do, be prepared for one of you to get fired. If you’re a woman you’ll get the short end of that stick.
13. Never break the girl code. Another woman’s husband is just that!
14. Stay home from work when you’re sick as coming into the office makes everyone sick.
15. Don’t confuse your work family with your real family — only one is tied by blood and love.
Are you intrigued and want to read more?
Find further details about Carvello and how to order her book on: AnythingForAHitBook.com.
From working backstage production to the radio airwaves, Lori Baldassi has been involved in the music industry on a number of professional levels for many years. Baldassi has spoken in front of the CRTC, holds a certificate in Adjudication from York University Toronto, and is a graduate of St. Clair College’s Media Convergence program. If you have any questions for her, please email: [email protected]