From Spacehog to Spotify: 7 Rockers Turned Music Execs
Long before the T&E reports, mileage upgrades and calendar invites, many a music exec played in bands, made poor hair choices and dreamt of someday making it. Slogging across interstates, camping on floors and finding little in the way of major success, the experience left an indelible mark on these executives and propelled them to help others find what they didn’t. Here then are the former members of Agnostic Front, The Lemonheads, The Grays, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Spacehog and Too Much Joy.
Steve Martin, 50, founder/owner, Nasty Little Man PR; Agnostic Front, The FUs, Straw Dogs, 1984-1989
Musical Highlight: “I’m reluctant to say I had any great ‘accomplishment’ as a musician. I had stuff I wanted to write and play, some people liked it, and I got in the van and played it for those people. That’s how it was circa 1984-1989--there was no Nirvana or Green Day breaking into the mainstream yet.
Last Straw: Agnostic Front’s singer Roger Miret went to jail for a year or two and I fell into a job doing publicity at our label, Relativity before starting Nasty Little Man.
Industry Highlight: "I got to introduce my late-parents to Paul McCartney backstage at Saturday Night Live. Paul’s music and SNL were both integral parts of our shared lives together."
I Miss…: "Actually playing music, which I still get to do every now and then."
Dan McCarroll, Warner Bros. Records, President, The Grays (with Jon Brion and Jason Falkner)
Last Straw: Went to run The Music Company label for Lars Ulrich -- his imprint at Elektra in 1998 but continued to take occasional gigs.
Industry Highlight: Getting the job as the President of Warner Bros Records. WBR has such a strong history and always been a cool label with a great balance between business and creative.
I Miss…: I miss everything about playing with a band, and try to get behind the drums whenever possible… which is not often enough.
Nate Albert, 44, Senior Vice President of A&R, Republic Records; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, 1983-1998
Last Straw: "I was ready to get off of the road. We played 250-300 shows a year for over seven years. Too much."
Industry Highlight: "Signing The Weeknd."
I Miss…: "We're all still friends, but I miss working with the Bosstones on a regular basis."
John P. Strohm, 48, Loeb & Loeb LLP (law firm), Senior Counsel; Blake Babies, Lemonheads (1986-1997)
Musical Highlight: "One of the first shows I played with them was the Glastonbury Festival in England. We played directly before one of my heroes, Johnny Cash. As I came off stage after playing to 60,000 people, Cash walked right up to me, shook my hand, and said, 'Hey, thanks for warming up the stage for me!'"
The Split: "When the Lemonheads broke up in 1997, I was 30 years old and I had to admit I wasn’t really making a living as a musician. I'd moved to Birmingham, AL to be close to my girlfriend, who is now my wife of 15 years. I went to law school in hopes of finding a way to bridge law practice and my growing interest in the music business."
Industry Highlight: "Finding a way to get started in the music business from Birmingham, which doesn’t have much in the way of music business community, infrastructure, or resources (though it’s a great music town). And building enough of a music law practice in Birmingham to be able to get hired by Loeb & Loeb in Nashville in 2011, barely six years after starting practicing law."
I Miss…: "What got me back into playing, what I missed, was mostly the community and collaboration. Playing at home by myself is fine, but it’s a lot more fun to make music with friends."
Sandy Smallens, 49, Head of Artist Marketing & Original Content, Spotify); Too Much Joy (1987-1994)
Musical Highlight: "Getting arrested and then acquitted for 'making an obscene performance' when we organized a censorship protest concert to play punk rock versions of 2 Live Crew songs in Broward Country, Florida."
Last Straw: "In the wake of being dropped by Giant/Warner Bros., the band and I had a difference of opinion as to how to proceed. Also, I had a new baby and wanted a more steady income that didn't require leaving home all the time."
Industry Highlight: "Maintaining a deep connection to music and the folks who make it throughout my four plus-year tenure at Spotify as it grew from 2MM to 20MM subscribers."
I Miss…: "That two hours just before, during and after a gig. Don't miss: The other 22 hours of the day."
Evan Taubenfeld, 31, Head of A&R Crush Music; Avril Lavigne's Musical Director/Guitarist, Sire Recording Artist, 2001-2012
Musical Highlight: "Playing when the ball dropped on New Years Eve in Times Square was pretty surreal. At one point I looked across the 2 million people below and saw a close up of myself on the Jumbotron under the Cup o N’oodles."
Last Straw: "I was fried. I’d spent the seven years struggling as a solo artist and over-sessioning my way through the LA co-writing scene as a writer. It wasn’t fun anymore."
Industry Highlight: "Getting to be a part of making records I love and working for artists I believe in. Many of the specific wins are a team effort at Crush, but I get a big smile on my face anytime I hear one of our songs on the radio."
I Miss...: "Waking up on a tour bus at 4pm after a fun night of watching my favorite TV, walking to catering, reading a good book all afternoon before a quick 70 minute sold out arena show and then repeating that every day."
Royston Langdon, Spotify, 43 Artist Ambassador, Spotify; Spacehog, 1994-2014
Musical Highlight: "I’m very proud of [Spacehog’s 1995 album] Resident Alien to this day. It has become a being with a life force of it's own."
Last Straw: "The life of a touring musician isn’t for me right now. I wanted to be present for my son and I wanted to be present in my day-to-day life and open myself up creatively."
Industry Highlight: "To be able to work with one of the greatest technology companies every day is thus far my greatest professional accomplishment. And, it's only breakfast and I can't wait for lunch."
I Miss…: "The shared spiritual connection with my bandmates and the audience that cannot be communicated in words. I don't miss the arguments with my brother Antony (these actually still happen)."
A version of this article first appeared in the June 27 issue of Billboard.