For a kid who loved rock 'n' roll but had no clue there was a business side to the music, Danny Goldberg has done all right for himself.
From a clerking job at Billboard, he advanced to music journalist, then publicist, and finally manager of some of the biggest artists of the past 40 years including Nirvana, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Earle, Sonic Youth, the Allman Brothers and the Beastie Boys, to name only a few.
Along the way he's served stints as president of Atlantic Records, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Records and Mercury Records Group, vice president of Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Records and founding president of Gold Mountain Entertainment. He also founded the independent Artemis Records, which was home to such talents as Spacehog, Lisa Loeb, Better Than Ezra, John Hiatt, the Pretenders and the late Warren Zevon.
And he'll be sharing some of the knowledge he's gained in the industry with students and the general public in a special master class at 7 p.m. Thursday at ACM@UCO, 329 E Sheridan in Bricktown.
“I turned 18 in the summer of '68 and wanted to get a job so I could get my own apartment and move out of my parents' place,” Goldberg recalled in a phone interview with The Oklahoman.
“And there was an ad in The New York Times that turned out to be Billboard. I didn't know what Billboard was, I just wanted to get an apartment, and it said ‘magazine.' And I'd written passably for my high school newspaper and it just sounded more interesting than the one that said ‘key punch operator.'”
Goldberg had graduated high school in New York, then enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley where “there were a lot of psychedelics around and I think I went to one week's worth of classes and that was about it for my college education.”
His real education began at Billboard, where his first job was to call retail stores where records were sold, find out what was selling, and compile a list for the weekly music charts.
Then, “I discovered after a month or two that there were people on the other side of the office that were getting actually paid to go to concerts and write their opinions about them. And I had a pretty low self esteem at this point, given my poor academic record, but I knew I could do that. So that was really it. I talked them into letting me do some reviews of people where the more senior writers weren't interested. I kinda got the castoff assignments and, you know, once you have a byline you exist in the world.”
But Goldberg eventually discovered he didn't really have the requisite cynicism to be a rock critic, because he couldn't bring himself to write anything bad about his heroes and heroines.
“I was too much of a fan,” he said.
So the next logical step on the stairway to heaven was to become a publicist, which perfectly fit Goldberg's natural tendency to champion rather than denigrate rock 'n' roll music.
“I went from being a mediocre rock critic to a really, really good publicist 'cause that fit my temperament,” he said. But I understood enough about the psychology of my fellow critics and writers that I was able to communicate with them.
“The breakthrough was doing publicity for Led Zeppelin. And the Zeppelin's manager, Peter Grant, was this larger-than-life figure who just intimidated the people. … The record company and concert promoters and the band looked up to him. And I just said, man, that's the job to get. You know, he's the center of everything.”