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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Originally published on June 8, 2007
Richard Palmese

Longtime label exec puts the emphasis on people and relationships—and believing

RCA Music Group executive VP of promotion Richard Palmese cares as much about the people around him as he does about the music he promotes. Throughout his management career, he has taken to heart the advice BMG Label Group chairman/CEO Clive Davis gave him when he was promoted to his first management position: Always respect the human spirit of every person you work with.

Getting into the business: I was studying to be a Catholic priest with the Jesuits. I’m a kid from Brooklyn and was reassigned to study in St. Louis at St. Louis University. I minored in communication and was on the college radio station, KBIL.

A friend, Ron Elz, took over [classical] KSHE in St. Louis, and he hired me to do mornings. We went to a Gavin convention in San Francisco—this was ’67 or ’66—and we met Tom Donahue, who had just introduced a progressive rock format at KSAN.

We came back to St. Louis, and Ron got permission to flip KSHE to what we called “underground FM.” That was the birth of KSHE, which is still one of the great rock stations in America. I was the morning disc jockey. I did that until 1970, then I left the seminary because I wanted a family.

Liner Notes
Richard Palmese
RCA Music Group executive VP of promotion
Favorite radio format: Top 40
Favorite TV show: “The original ‘Law & Order’ and ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.’ ”
Favorite song:
The Eagles’ “Hotel California”
Favorite movie:
Favorite book:
“Inside the Record Business,” by Clive Davis
Favorite restaurant:
Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse, New York
Beverage of choice:
Johnnie Walker Black
“I play a little bit of tennis, and we enjoy going out on the boat when the weather is good, which isn’t as often as I’d like.”
email address:

From radio to records: I got a job as a road manager for the road show of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I met other people in the business, and I was eventually hired at Buddah Records as the Midwest local.

In 1975, Arista had an opening in the Midwest and they called. I came to New York and met David Carrico, who was the head of promotion, and Clive Davis, who interviewed anyone coming into the company.

Joining RCA Music Group: In 1983, Irving Azoff offered me the opportunity to come to Los Angeles as executive vice president of marketing and promotion for MCA Records. Eventually, I was named president, and I stayed there until Seagram’s took over in ’96.

Clive and I had stayed friends, so I called him and asked if I could come home, and the timing was great because Rick Bisceglia had just resigned. So Clive welcomed me back with open arms, and I think that was probably the best decision I ever made.

Promotion in today's environment: Nothing gets me more excited than bringing music to a radio programmer and then hearing it on the radio. In the old days, you’d drive up, you’d go in, you’d play this little 7-inch vinyl, they’d get all excited, and, as you were driving away, you’d hear the record on the radio.

It’s certainly more challenging today to get programmers to believe the song’s a hit before it proves itself to be one.

The relationship between radio and records: I’ve never approached radio in an adversarial way. I think in many ways the relationships, on a personal level, are pretty much the same. Radio has its goals, we have our goals, and we all meet somewhere in the middle, with shared opportunities.

Current projects: It’s exciting to see the breakthrough of Chris Daughtry, who has sold over 2 million albums, and Carrie Underwood, whose album has just gone to 6 million, and to see Avril Lavigne come back and have one of the biggest pop records of the year.

State of the music business: The future is digital, and we’re going to have to find a way to monetize it, so it offsets the loss of the physical CD sale. We have to reinvent our business so we not only participate with the sale of music, but also get involved with the concert and merchandising revenues of artists and become true partners with our artists.

State of radio: I know radio is a business and programmers are programming for Arbitron, so it does kind of get in the way of creativity. That’s unfortunate, but I understand it.

I still believe radio is where people discover new music. What happens on the Internet is important. The music you hear on “Grey’s Anatomy” is important. But I have yet to see the big reaction you want to see to a hit until it goes on the radio. I’m a big, big fan of radio.

Something about RCA Label Group that might surprise our readers: We are all excited to come to work each and every day. It’s a great company to work in. The camaraderie between the executives, middle management and the assistants is second to none.

Career highlight: I would like to think I’ve always treated people fairly and with respect, and that’s important to me. So I’m proud of that because I’ve really worked hard at that.

Most influential individual: Clive Davis, no doubt about it. It’s a very personal relationship—his warmth, encouragement, guidance and his passion inspire me every day.

Advice for the music industry: Believe. Nothing good will happen unless it starts with you, and you’ve got to believe, whether it’s believing in yourself or in your artist and your people.

Advice for radio: What’s going to distinguish radio from all these other media, from all the other interfering platforms, is the fact that they are in the community, involved. They are the friend. You can’t get that from a satellite.

‘I’m a big, big fan of radio.’—Richard Palmese