My 15-Minute Meeting with Danny Goldberg

I was reading the Fashion Rocks magazine insert that came with the latest issue of Wired. In it there’s an excerpt from Danny Goldberg’s new book, Bumping Into Geniuses, which got me thinking about the time that I met Danny.

I don’t think my parents were ever really happy with the choices I made once I left the house and went to college at the University of Kansas. My dad always encouraged me though. My hunch is that he didn’t share all of the details with my mom, who was either more disapproving or just quiet about her disapproval. Either way, I didn’t really talk to her about any of it. I always talked to my dad, particularly about the music business. My dad was pretty much responsible for getting me interested in music at a very early age. Instead of fairy tales, he would tell me stories about Barry Gordy starting Motown or Quincy Jones producing a hit record with Michael Jackson. I assume he read books about these people, but now that I’m thinking about it, I never saw any books on them in the house. But there were lots of records to listen to, and I listened to all of them over and over.

As I grew up, I became obsessed with music. Whether it was listening to Casey Kasem‘s American Top 40 or buying punk rock records at Streetside Records in Overland Park, Kansas, I knew I wanted to be a part of music. Since I wasn’t a talented musician and couldn’t sing, I decided that I was going to work behind the scenes. It all culminated when I went off to college and Lawrence, Kansas was probably one of the best places to be in the 90s if you weren’t in Seattle or Athens. I started working at KJHK in the production department and eventually worked my way up to hosting “Plow The Fields,” which was the local music show. I was also a college marketing rep for Sony Music and started as an intern at Red House Recording Studio (now Black Lodge Recording), but what I really wanted to do was to start a label. I asked my dad if I could take some money from my life savings account and with that deposit and an amazing band called Action Man, I started Barber’s Itch Records.

In 1995, I went to New York for CMJ. My dad was always urging me to meet with people when I went to New York, but I didn’t have any connections. My dad was active in the ACLU and served as the President of the affiliate board. At some point, and I can’t remember when, he testified as a psychologist against the PMRC and if memory serves (and it may not), that’s where my dad met Danny Goldberg. I’m sure he talked his ear off too, but he also used this meeting as a way to get me a meeting with Danny in New York, which he did. I vaguely remember meeting with Danny, playing him some music and seeking his advice on how to get acquired by a major or get my artists signed to Mercury. I think the meeting lasted all of about 15 minutes, but I was anything but discouraged. He told me to work hard, get my music out to as many people as I could and only then might something happen, but chances weren’t good. And that small chance was what drove me to keep at my little label. I didn’t sell many records, but it was an experience that I will never forget and it helped me decided what I was going to do for the rest of my life.