Industry Spotlight: The Artie of the Deal
Speaking with Artie Gentile, one has the immediate sense of a man comfortable in his skin and happy in his life. A Bostonian from wayback, Artie charted a music business course the old- fashioned way, taking him through states, formats, and charts since the 90s. Gentile was happy to share his roots and trajectory with us. “I grew up in Boston and that’s where I got into music. I grew up in Somerville and I played in bands my entire youth. Played drums and managed bands and promoted them. I went to Bentley and then I went to Emerson for my grad degree. There’s a lot of Emersonians out there, I know. So when I graduated Emerson, my goal was to move to LA and I was thinking more along the lines of management or A&R. It just seemed more in line with what I was doing but I ended up meeting a lot of different people in promotion and took a left turn so to speak.”
Artie landed a gig at Giant Records, in ‘95, ultimately moving to Denver for Giant. “I wasn’t planning on going to Denver, but it ended up being a great city, a great music city, being the local I was fortunate enough to be working Big Head Todd and the Monsters. We broke “Resignation Superman” and several singles off of that album. We broke Kenny Wayne Shepherd and that sort of thing. And then we started taking a turn, a little more alternative. They actually changed the name of the label to Revolution Records for a moment and about that time I ended up segueing over to RCA for the first time.”
Gentile stayed in Denver for the first couple years for RCA, during quite a time for the label.
“We went on a roll. At the time we just had “Crash Into Me” from Dave Matthews and we just went on a tear from everyone from Dave Matthews to Foo Fighters to Vertical Horizon to Maroon 5 to ‘NSync. You name it, we were breaking it and it was very exciting. After about 3 years in Denver, I was given the opportunity to choose between LA or San Francisco. And I opted for San Francisco because I wanted to pick up another market and not be with everyone else in LA, all the nationals. I figured it would be prudent to go North. I lived up there for another 2 ½, 3 years for RCA and had the best territory in the world. Hawaii all the way out to Denver. Could see all the parts of the country I fell in love with so it was pretty awesome.”
Gentile spent 7 years at RCA, moving to LA shortly after September 11th to handle Top 40. “When the company went public, J Records kinda took over, and Clive Davis and Richard Palmese took over and asked me to stay on board and do Rhythm promotion for them. I popped around a little bit but it was really cool, all these different national positions in different formats and really start to understand how they correlate and how to cross records and such.”
When that position was eliminated, Artie moved over to Republic to serve as the West Coast National. “It was super crazy ‘cause when I went to Republic, we were just breaking artists like Blue October and such. And then ultimately merged into Island Records. Handling Hot AC, it was pretty intense. Working with someone like Taylor Swift for the last 3 albums, to Ariana Grande to Fall Out Boy, to whomever; we just had so much going on that was really exciting and pretty crazy at times.
(I comment on Artie’s having cut his teeth in every format.) “I really did. After ten years there, I was talking with Dennis Blair and he saw this opportunity opening up and I was able to segue right from there. Right back to RCA and here I am doing AAA and Alternative Promotion for RCA again based out of LA. Full circle.”
It’s clear he’s a man happy in his gig. “I love it. It’s just all very exciting. I’ll tell you a quick little story. One of the funny things when I first went to Denver. I had to go up to Winter Park to cover a Big Head Todd show. Ray Carlton was the one who was head of promotion, hired me, God rest his soul. He told me where to stay “Oh you have to stay over in Aurora, this Doubletree. It’s intense. I’m like 23, 24. OK, I get a rental car and drive all the way up to the park, I do the festival and meet all these cool people and end up being friends for years. I go to drive back at like 10 or 11 o’clock at night all the way back to Denver, like a good 2-hour ride. As I’m making my way over Berthoud Pass, I see all these people kinda pulled over and they’re all like looking over the side of the hill and I’m like wow what’s going on. Keeping in mind this is my first night. I pull over and they’re all kind looking up in the sky and behold, it’s the Northern Lights… Aurora Borealis… this kinda colorful crazy rainbow colors in the sky… I’m like this is a sign that I made the right choice! I tell you what I’ve never seen anything like this before; I think I picked the right thing!“
That right thing continues to be right, and flying right up the charts. “Being back here at RCA working Triple A and Alternative Formats, I’ve taken a lot of pride in what we’ve accomplished in the past 6 months in breaking Cage the Elephant with more number ones with ‘Mess Around’, and now ‘Trouble’ just became Number 1 this week Alternative. Sitting at number 4 at Triple A. Just furthering careers and breaking artists like Elle King and Tom Odell and Ray LaMontagne and so on and so forth. We’re gearing up right now for a couple of big records. That’s gonna take us into our fourth quarter with Jimmy Eat World and Kings of Leon which I’m really excited to work with again. I worked that record the first time around and I’m looking forward to working their next.”
Mind you it’s not all working records of course. A family man, Artie relishes the time. “My downtime, I love spending time first and foremost with my family. I have an amazing wife and two young boys that are fantastic. I like to spend my time doing things with them that I enjoy whether it’s baseball or riding bikes or skiing, snowboarding. These 2 little maniacs are 4 and 7 and they already know how to ski pretty much. It’s pretty awesome. I really enjoy everything that I like to do outdoors especially with the kids and stuff. So it’s pretty great.”
As the career and life “happily ever ever” seemed inevitable, I ask what music he listened to as a kid, that may have planted the seeds of entering the biz. “I grew up listening to everything but some of my favorite stuff has been like Aerosmith, some of the older rock stuff. But Aerosmith used to live in our neighborhood so we used to see Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, all those guys.”
The glimmers of career plans first manifested on the management side. “My first goal was to try to sign the band that I was with most of the time and thought we had something worthwhile, but at the same time once I started to get towards my mid-20s, I wasn’t about to get in a van and hit the road with some delusions of grandeur. I wanted to make sure I was kind of doing what’s right for me. That’s why when I finished my degree, that was kind of my timeframe in my head that if the situation wasn’t right, that I was shopping, that I was going to pick up and hop on some business side of things.”
As a musician himself, Artie’s skills were born of necessity. “I kind of fell into the management stuff because I kind of had to. I was the one that pretty much figured out what to do. I ran with it and kind of defaulted into the role so to speak. But I was able to develop a lot of really great contacts and relationships over the years, from Tim Collins to The Wayans Brothers to Firth from Vic Firth Drumsticks to some of the Zildjian family. I took advantage of my schooling in that whenever I had whether it was, a full project or a thesis, I would take it to a business and use it as an avenue to open the door to these different companies and contacts with people. I had already started making contacts with certain labels and before you know it was A&R people and promotion, and promotion just opened right up for me.”
With such driven but organic career growth, I ask if Artie has any general advice for those looking to seek the same contentment in their career. “Everybody has such a different story; there’s really no right way. I think the only thing I can say is do what you feel is right and follow your heart and gut to whatever path seems like the right one. As long as you have a plan, I think, and you follow it through. You’ve gotta have a plan, especially if you’re going to navigate the music business. You have to be flexible and willing to change a course a bit. You can’t be so steadfast that it’s like ‘This is exactly what I want to do and the only thing and this is the way it is’ ‘cause that’s just not the way things turn out. Meet as many people as you can and talk to everyone and be cool.”
Meet as many people as you can and talk to everyone and be cool. Amen.