published on June 8, 2007
label exec puts the emphasis on people
and relationships—and believing
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
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
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.
RCA Music Group executive VP of promotion
radio format: Top 40
TV show: “The original
‘Law & Order’ and ‘Law
& Order: Special Victims Unit.’ ”
The Eagles’ “Hotel California”
“Inside the Record Business,”
by Clive Davis
Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse,
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.”
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.
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
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
It’s certainly more challenging
today to get programmers to believe the
song’s a hit before it proves itself
to be one.
relationship between radio and records:
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 big, big fan of radio.’—Richard