Danny Bennett has been instrumental in the career of his father, Tony Bennett, yet he's received relatively limited public attention over the years. I recently spoke with Danny about his career, his marketing approach for Mr. Bennett and his longtime desire to push the music industry towards digital music and the web. Though this is a two-part interview, I could easily see doing an extended series on Danny's perspectives and experiences.
I'm taking the liberty of calling Danny Bennett by his first name since we are discussing two Bennetts. Danny grew up in a very musical household and has experience as both a performer and studio engineer but he seems to have found his true place in the music industry as his father's manager. Not only has he done an excellent job for Mr. Bennett but he has offered an example to the music industry of the success possible when one embraces change intelligently.
Danny began managing Mr. Bennett in 1979 at a time when he and similar acts were watching their aging audience "literally dying", spending way too much time performing in Las Vegas and not adjusting well to changing times. Danny's insight was that younger audiences might respond to Mr. Bennett if given the opportunity, something that would have been almost impossible in the 1960s and unlikely in the 70s. In fact, he says that both he and Mr. Bennett questioned the industry's emphasis on demographic boundaries wondering, "do you have to be a certain age to listen to Beethoven?"
Danny began to seek out a younger audience for Mr. Bennett with college tours and performances on David Letterman. He also connected with Bob Guccione, Jr. at SPIN which led to a fashion layout in the magazine and a performance in LA with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This approach resulted in a deal with Columbia Records and the 1986 release of "The Art of Excellence" putting Mr. Bennett back on the charts.
This album was also distinguished by being what Danny believes was the first totally digital album made using hard drives for recording. In keeping with the transition to CD's, Danny also made the break with cassettes. From this point on, Danny would urge his major label partners and contacts to make the shift to digital music and then to the web in the 90s while leading Tony Bennett into the future of music.
During this period Danny continued his alternative marketing approach with such moves as working the college radio scene in the late 80s and getting a Tony Bennett music video on MTV's Buzz Bin in the early 90s. The latter led to Mr. Bennett's appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1994 and the subsequent album release led to a Grammy for Album of the Year.
This revival of Tony Bennett's career circulates around three themes:
- Continuing Tony Bennett's approach to music and performance that has earned him the reputation as a classic artist.
- Finding a young audience by taking his act to their territory without buying into major label demographic assumptions.
- And not just keeping up with but diving into changes in the music industry driven by technology.
In Part 2, to be posted tomorrow, I will focus on Danny's work promoting Tony Bennett's latest album "Duets II" as well as his advice for young artists.
Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. He maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and also blogs at This Business of Blogging. To suggest music services and related topics for review at Hypebot, please contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.