Bruce Pilato owns Pilato Entertainment, Marketing & Media, LLC in New York, providing marketing, artist management, PR and project development. A 1978 graduate of Syracuse University, he is Executive Director of Talent Acquisition of Mastermind Lounge.
He has worked with Ringo Starr, Carl Palmer, ELP, Asia, Little River Band, Foreigner, Yes, Meatloaf, The Rascals, The Tubes, and others. He has participated in the development and release of over 50 CDs and DVD titles.. As a music journalist, he has written for Variety, Gannett, USA TODAY, Mix, and others. Presently he teaches music industry at The UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER and is a voting member of the Grammys (The Recording Academy) as well as Entertainment Director of the new “2300 Arena” in Philadelphia.
Rochester Woman Online: You seem to have been ahead of the curve at Newhouse School of Communications , so what can you advise others regarding your transition from student to your professional life?
Bruce Pilato: It had to do with a strong work ethic. I was an over achiever in college, taking on average 18-21 credits per semester and being involved as the entertainment editor of the daily school paper and co-chair of the concert board, plus I was already free lance writing for music publications. When I got out, I kept up the same pace. I married two years out of college and had three kids before I was 30, so, I did not have a choice. I had a lot of responsibility at very early age. I adopted a can-do attitude, and that is what got me to where I am today. I worked for many years for the Gannett company and divided my career between advertising and marketing and entertainment journalism. Eventually, I found a way I could run my own business and incorporate all the skill sets I picked up along the way.
Rochester Woman Online: When you got out of school how did you get started-and what are some of your favorite accomplishments?
BP: I was 8 years old when I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964, and that was it. I was hooked and wanted to be in the music business. I played a few instruments but by high school I was running an FM student radio station and working in a music store, The House of Guitars. My father was an attorney and was on the Board of Commissioners for the Rochester War Memorial, which became the Blue Cross Arena. He took me to every show that came through Rochester, from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to Tom Jones and Cher, so I was there for a wide spectrum of musical artists and I saw the behind-the-scenes operation. It was there that I knew I wanted to work in business rather than being a professional musicians. I knew it would be a better career for me and a longer one. Also, Rochester was a warm-up market for many of the major tours. They would always play Rochester, Buffalo or Syracuse before playing Madison Square Garden in New York City. All through the late 70s, 80s, and 90s, I had access as a music journalist to the biggest names in the business BEFORE they hit the press in New York City. It gave me an edge and propelled my journalism career to the point where I was writing for USA TODAY and many other international publications. From there I worked in catalog development for several are the percussion major record companies creating CD box sets of famous acts, and that led to a career as an artist manager, which is mainly what I do now. I had a family and I lived in a secondary market, so I had to be innovative. My biggest accomplishment is not that I have a respectable stature in the music business, it is that I did from Rochester, NY, when everyone else had to move to New York, Los Angeles or London.
Rochester Woman Online: You are quite known for your roster of groups you manage-can you talk about some of them?
BP: Most of my current artist roster came as a result of relationships I developed as a music journalist or working on their catalog for a record label. I am still a music fan at heart and artists like that. They appreciate that I am all about the music and the presentation of the live show. The money and the perks have always been secondary to me, and that makes it easy to gain their trust. Emerson Lake & Palmer was the first big band that asked me to be part of the management in the early 1990s. I managed Greg Lake and now still manage Carl Palmer , who also brought me into ASIA, when that band reunited in 2006. I also manage Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Pat Travers Band and Gene Cornish of The Rascals. I assembled a project called The Platinum Rock All Stars which has members from most of my bands playing together. I have worked with The Tubes and members of The Sex Pistols. In 2001, I was hired to work with Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band for that world tour- probably the highlight of my career. Once you work for a Beatle, you have hit the gold standard. I also have an entertainment marketing and public relations division that works with YES, Whitesnake, Meatloaf, Dennis DeYoung of STYX, Foreigner, The Little River Band and others.
Rochester Woman Online: How long have you known Bob Brenna and considering how busy you are, why did you agree to work with him at mastermind lounge and become the executive director of talent acquisition and management?
BP: I have known Bob for over 30 years. We have several business projects together including an independent record label, and a unique album project called When Pigs Fly, that featured lots of established music celebrities. Technology and the advent of social media has made it possible to connect directly with consumers who certain interests or aspiring professionals. Bob’s idea to create a clearing house platform for this that allows these individuals to connects with mentors and real successful pros who can provide knowledge and guidance in a field they are known for. I also teach at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Popular Music and Nazareth College, so being part of Mastermind Lounge was a natural transition for me. I am so optimistic because we created an interactive real-time platform that I can bring to the entertainment industry as a one-stop method of connecting with desired consumers.
Rochester Woman Online: Your methods of writing got you to the point where you did interviews & album liner notes and you book venues around the world- you even go to places around the globe to manage acts -is there a big difference in US compared to other countries
BP: I would say the United States is the one global market everyone wants to conquer. Always has been and continues to be that. That put me in a great position when I launched my company. I showed many UK artists how they could set up a base of operations in a city like Rochester for less than half the cost of doing it in New York or Los Angeles. Most of my acts store their equipment in Rochester, rehearse here when they come to the US prior to touring and use crews created from this area. In the case of Emerson Lake & Palmer, I saved them nearly $100,000 when they resumed touring in 1998. The word spread and it helped me. As far as working in other markets. It is difficult to remain a viable global act. 9/11 changed a lot things. Getting work visas for incoming international artists to come over here now has become a major undertaking. Getting equipment in and out of countries is a big hassle now. Many of my artists do these “rock cruises” and getting our gear on and off the boat has become a major undertaking with homeland security. The international market is not nearly as lucrative as it had been. Europe has been a real struggle to do long tours- short runs are possible, but unless you are the level of U2 or Lady Gaga, doing major venues for extensive tours outside of the US is often a challenge. Japan use to be a big day for many artists- not the case any more. There is no money in records any more- so everyone has to tour to stay afloat. The competition is staggering and everyone is now fighting for that piece of the entertainment dollar. When Paul McCartney or The Stones announce a tour and put tickets on sale 9 months ahead of time at $300 a ticket- that drains a lot of money out of the market for smaller acts trying to compete.
Rochester Woman Online: What advice would you have for people aspiring to do the kind of work that you do?
BP: Find a niche´in the business that you can fit into and be as good at filling it as you can be. One of my students was in pre-med but really wanted to work in the music industry. I explained the increase in touring has put tremendous strain on the voices of these performers. There is a huge need for voice and throat doctors. They just opened a huge voice clinic in Nashville. That student is now looking to work in medicine doing voice preservation.
Rochester Woman Online: Is there a big difference in interviewing writing management and the task of putting together Ringo Starr’s band or the platinum all-stars?
BP: Each project has a different need, strategy and result. Some artists are very clear on how they want to be represented or how they want to maintain their careers. In that case, it is matter of executing their vision. Other acts hire people like myself because they have gone adrift and need to get back on course. It is all about assessment, evaluating the various options, and execution. Rochester Woman Online: Who are the heroes in your life who are the people of made a difference to you? BP: There have been many. My father was a successful lawyer who practiced law for 68 years and lived to be almost 94. He incorporated the work ethic in me and also gave me a good understanding of law and how to protect myself and my clients. My mother was an artist, so that is where I get that side of life. Both encouraged me to do what I love and be the best I could be. The artists I work with mostly had successful careers before I came into their lives- so I have learned from them a great deal, as well as taught them new ways to sustain their careers. The real music men of the 60s and 70s were a big influence: David Geffen, promoter Bill Graham, Atlantic Records President Ahmet Ertegun, Brian Epstein, Clive Davis. I have had the good fortune to meet and speak to most of them. I also have great admiration for people like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Teddy Roosevelt, and Susan B Anthony- they were trail blazers.