887. Networking His Way Through the Music Business
“At 18 I started saving up money to move to New York because I had no plans on going to college. On Valentine’s Day, 1971, I moved to New York City with 200 and some odd dollars, a week’s worth of clothing, and a guitar. I figured I had two weeks to find a job. Nothing really panned out, so a friend of mine from back home had a cousin who lived in New York who apparently said it was okay if I used his name to get a job at a store called Colony Records. It was the biggest retail record store in New York City. I just caved in and walked into Colony one morning and said, I’m a friend of so-and-so. I could use a job, and they hired me. And all of a sudden I was working with vinyl every day, which was great for me.”
Raised by adoptive parents in New Jersey, D.L. Byron became enamored with music at an early age. When he wasn’t busy getting thrown out of exclusive prep schools, he formed several teenage garage bands and won a number of poetry competitions. Deciding to pursue his music career, he moved to NYC in 1971. In 1979, Clive Davis and Arista discovered Byron and signed him, hoping to find success with this American version of Elvis Costello or Graham Parker. In 1980, he released “This Day and Age,” which became an instant power pop classic. He recently released his first book, “Shadows of the Night,” which chronicles his adventures in the music business and the reunion with his birth mother and 7 sisters.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“I started writing songs for my second record, which I didn’t know when that was going to come out. At that point, I was kind of disillusioned. And one of those songs was Shadows of the Night. I shopped it around to various artists, including an American artist, Helen Schneider, who was very popular in Germany. She took it to five times platinum in Germany. I then thought Pat Benatar might be good for this song and this song good for her. So I took a meeting with Chrysalis Records and pitched it, and then forgot about that meeting until about nine months later when I got a phone call from her A&R guy saying she’s doing it and it’s going to be out shortly. The next thing I knew my song was all over the radio, being sung by Benatar, and it was top five. And then all of a sudden she won a Grammy with it.”
The Most Powerful Lessons and Experiences?
1) Sometimes you will face some no’s before you succeed. Don’t give up if you believe in yourself and your work. “When I wrote the song Shadows of the Night, I submitted it to Arista Records but was told by Clive Davis that it wasn’t commercial enough.” This is the same song that Pat Benatar recorded later, took it into the top 5 on the charts and then won a Grammy singing it.
2) Networking with others in your industry can give you surprising opportunities. You never know when meeting the right person can give you an opportunity for growth and greater success. Get out there and network.
3) Everyone comes here with a gift. “Some people are dissuaded from realizing that they have a gift to give or from giving it in some way. It may be a well-meaning parent or friends who say to you, don’t go there, be safe. Don’t take a risk, don’t shoot for the moon because you may be disappointed. I think that it is incumbent upon everyone to give their gift.”
On His Bookshelf
Shadows of the Night, by D.L. Byron
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