Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I’m delighted with the interview I have today for my continuing Embracing SUCCESS series. Daniel Glass has had, and still has, an illustrious career in the music industry. As a music journalist, I’ve been in awe of his ability to be instrumental in helping launch the careers of many top music business executives and hit recording artists.

Daniel Glass has always been passionate about music. He began as Vice President of SAM Records. From there he was Director of New Music Marketing, and then Senior Vice President at Chrysalis Records, guiding the careers of superstars including Billy Idol, Pat Benatar, Sinead O’Connor, and Huey Lewis and The News. Daniel next joined the SBK Records as Senior Vice President of Promotion, where he helped break artists, such as Jesus Jones, Technotronic, Wilson Phillips, and Vanilla Ice. From there he was promoted to Executive Vice President/General Manager of SBK Records and after the consolidation of SBK, Chrysalis and EMI Records USA, he became President/CEO, where he developed many hit artists, including, Jon Secada, Selena, and Arrested Development.

Daniel was profiled as one of Crain’s New York Business “40 under 40” success stories.

In 1996, Daniel and Doug Morris (who went on to be Universal Music Group’s Chairman) began Rising Tide Records, which later became Universal Records, with Daniel as President.? While there, he was instrumental in helping break many new artists, including the multi-platinum debut of Erykah Badu, Goldfinger, and the Lost Boyz. In 1999 he joined Danny Goldberg at his new independent label, Artemis Records, as Executive Vice President, and then President. Artemis was named #1 independent label in Billboard.

Now Daniel has founded Glassnote, an independent entertainment company that encompasses Glassnote Records, Music Publishing and Merchandising. I visited him in his office here in NYC.

Walking in, the vibe was energetic and friendly. Everyone was in one big room, working together. Daniel exudes passion for the music he works with. His enthusiasm for the artists on his label radiated out. He had the same enthusiasm for his staff. He coaches and mentors them to be the best they can be and told me their stories with great pride. I read an article in R & R magazine that shared stories from top music industry execs who credit Daniel as their mentor +. He has a keen ability to see the best in people and to encourage and nurture them to bring it out in themselves.

To me, the joy Daniel has in every ounce of building his company while nurturing the talent of his artists, and the abilities of his staff, is SUCCESS at its finest. He’s still expecting to go much further, but he’s enjoying the whole process. I asked him about it.

Why did you start Glassnote? I’ve been involved with 4 companies in the past that morphed into something else. Chrysalis was sold to EMI. I wanted to be there my whole life. SBK, which was a tremendous label, sold to EMI. Doug Morris and I started a little label called Rising Tide Records, which quickly morphed into Universal. That was a year into our success. And Artemis, which I was lucky enough to work with Danny Goldberg on, morphed into an investment model. Hedge funds and bankers took over. So I thought, at this point in my life I’ve been well trained. I couldn’t build a company again, see it be sold prematurely, and not be on the controlling end of the creativity and the business part. Also, I’d never seen a time in history where the atmosphere and climate was so perfect for independent labels and intimate, small operations. We had the funding and the know-it-all to attract great artists and a great team.

Why do you feel the vibe of your company works well? We have a very young team here. Each person has amazing potential. It’s a true collaborative effort. Physically, we created an office where everyone works in the same room. The open office represents who we are. It’s completely democratic, open and inclusive. I think that’s the only way you can be successful—the vibe of a collaborative, team operation…I have the same satisfaction from a hit record as I do from a hit employee, a hit teammate. I love seeing someone blossom and grow. That’s how the great organizations have done it. You grow people from within and you have to weed some people out.

What’s your ambition for Glassnote? I look at Chrysalis, where I was for seven years, and I’d like to run our company the same way, on a smaller basis—with a high batting average, sometimes batting 1,000, which means if you put out nine records, nine are successful. They did everything in-house. So my dream is as we grow the company, to have our artists writing for other artists in the company, to actually sign writers that work for Glassnote to help our writers to write better. Sometimes as independents we release records that we think are great—A-pluses—but they’re B-pluses or A-minuses. A-minuses don’t sell. I think the atmosphere of collaboration makes you better. Here we raise the ante every day. I make people work hard.

What people skills need to be developed? You have to train and mentor people. There’s way too much assumption that people are competent. I look at it like teaching people [arriving from a foreign country]. You first find out if they speak any English. Make them feel comfortable and help them understand. I will throw out terms or say things and then ask if they really know what I’m talking about. They say yes, but I question it. So you must train people. It’s expensive—both time and money—but it’s worth it.

What do you consider one of the most important lessons? You have to teach people to stay in the game for the entire marathon. A marathon isn’t just 26 miles. It’s 26.2 miles. You must finish it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Slow is sometimes better. You have to pace yourself– to know when to go up the hills, when to drink, so you can finish the marathon. Too many people don’t finish things; they skip around and graze. It’s a chronic problem in our society. To me, number 11 and 2 are dirty numbers. Bring it to #1. You have to finish.

What skill do you feel is missing? It’s not a skill but people aren’t having fun. People have been consolidated, bought and merged by various hedge funds and takeovers. I think they’re not having fun. If you’re not having fun you’re not going to be successful. You’ve got to work hard but also have to have fun.

What makes you a good mentor? I think a lot of people have amazing potent
ial but don’t necessarily believe in themselves. If I see the glimmer in their eyes, I don’t care what their background is. If I see potential, I will try to nurture it, embellish it and bring it out in you. I think I have the ability to do that, to make you believe in yourself. I also have the ability to teach people that the distance between two points is a straight line. The older I get, the more efficient I get. A lot of people who are young and hotshots think there are shortcuts. I’ve yet to see one. I’ve never seen in baseball anyone go from first base to third base and not get called out. You could bluff, or make believe, but you still have to touch all the bases. Some will do it quicker or be more proficient.

How would you define SUCCESS? Artists have dreams. I think SUCCESS is when you can fulfill that artist’s dream. In our business, SUCCESS is also making money. Profit is not a dirty word to me. I’m very concerned and conscious about the bottom line. I think a lot of independents aren’t. They’re so pure and too hip. We want to make a profit here. I want our investors to feel they invested in something good. There’s 2 investors—the ones who put their money into the company and the fans. I respect them. To me it’s fans that keep you going. That’s who I care about. The rest of it follows. You make records that you love and hopefully sound great.

What would you advise someone who wants to be successful? If you don’t know the 1 through 10, find people that do. Know what you’re good at but more importantly, know what you’re not good at. Surround yourself with a good business team, so you don’t go out of business. And pay your bills, because your reputation can go like that! Surround yourself with a great team. I surround myself with bright people.

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