Madelyn Scarpulla: Shouting It Loud & Living Proud

by Jeb Wright

When Loud and Proud label boss Tom Lipsky goes to work, he surrounds himself with the best in the business. Enter Madelyn Scarpulla! This lady has worked with, and continues to work with, the Who's Who of Rock and Roll. She is the Sam Drucker of the Rock world, wearing many hats, and accomplishing many tasks!

Madelyn took time out of her busy day -- and we mean BUSY DAY -- to tell us what it is like to work behind the scenes in the crazy world of rock and roll. She puts it out there with no BS and even refuses to spill the beans, choosing rather to conduct herself with class, honestly and integrity.

With the team of Lipsky and Scarpulla behind them the artists on Loud and Proud (check out the videos below) can't lose! They are the real deal and are the ones who are keeping the music the readers of Classic Rock Revisited love, alive and well.

Jeb:  You are a big part of the new Tom Lipsky run label Loud & Proud.  We will get into your past of working with Tom, but for now, please tell me what it was about Tom to make you jump ship and join him in this label?

Madelyn:  Tom and I have worked together for the last decade.  So we already know that we have similar beliefs in the value of artists, similar views of artists as partners with labels and we are both very committed to those beliefs.  It’s a natural and obvious move for me to make.

And truthfully, I didn’t exactly jump ship. I was politely escorted off of it as my time at Roadrunner Records came to an end when the company was merged into Atlantic.  Coincidentally, in 2004 I had left Atlantic to join Sanctuary Records (where Tom was president).  So here we are almost 10 years later and I’m repeating my pattern… leaving a major label (the same exact label, just a different floor) for the more relaxed, open, creative and nimble world of an independent label run by Tom Lipsky.

Jeb: You are wearing a lot of hats with L&P.  Describe a day in your life as a General Manager.

Madelyn:   I wear all the hats, yes!  Other than Tom’s hat, of course, which is that of the Master of Ceremonies. There is no typical “day in the life” to describe.  One day I could be traveling to Seattle to cover street week activities (performances, in-stores, radio and TV performances, a photo shoot) for Walking Papers.  Another day I could be sitting at my home office on my yoga ball chair generating bar codes and entering metadata into RED Distribution’s B2B system.  Another day might be filled with marketing strategy and licensing meetings at RED.  Another day could be spent working on production, manufacturing and inventory logistics.  The beauty of a small independent label is that we have ultimate control and decision making power over everything we do from which artists we sign to what color our vinyl is to how much we spend on a radio campaign to how best to spend marketing dollars.   I use each quadrant of my brain daily.

Jeb: Here is a tough one…how much longer can these ‘Heritage’ artists be a viable source for a label? 

Madelyn:  That’s an odd question because Loud & Proud currently has four artists, only one of which might fit that “heritage” artist category (Starship).  And the answer is actually “infinitely.”  The top selling artists of today are tomorrow’s “heritage” artists. 

However, we are currently in the business of artist development. We consider Walking Papers to be a new artist, who are developing by taking the same steps as a new artist takes.  The Winery Dogs consist of three well known players, but this is a brand new band.  Willie Nile debuted at #1 on the Billboard’s Top New Artist Album chart.  We will continue to work with the established artists, but we are also interested in developing new projects and finding new audiences for established players.

Jeb:  Also, to play the devil’s advocate, a lot of people say labels are irrelevant.  Convince me why this does not pertain to L&P.

Madelyn:   We view ourselves as partners with artists and managers.  We offer artists and managers our marketing, sales, promotion and creative expertise and resources, supported with a transparent financial model.  Management companies can sometimes provide the services that a label provides.  But when you have a true and open relationship with a small team such as Tom and myself along with our stellar distribution team to maximize opportunity around the globe, how is that irrelevant?

Jeb: Part of your job is working directly with artists and their managers, as you’ve done over your career.  You also then are the go between for the distribution company.  Do you ever get pulled at both ends and if so how do you handle it?

Madelyn: There are no circumstances where being in the middle of those two entities creates opposing force.  The distribution company is a service organization who provide top notch physical, digital and direct-to-consumer services to us as a label, and in turn our artists, at our direction. So far, we have a cooperative relationship on both sides and it has been smooth sailing.

Jeb:  Describe what Tom is like as a person and as a rock and roll crazy label exec.

Madelyn: Tom is passionate, dedicated, very intelligent and one of the most loyal people I have ever known.  He flies under the radar, yet accomplishes major feats for his artists and for his label every day.  He is not crazy in any sense… except maybe in his true fanaticism for his artists.  He believes in his artists and will go to the ends of the earth to create a comfortable and productive environment for them.

Jeb:  What other jobs have you held in the industry?

Madelyn:  How much time do you have?  My first gig was in radio programming and promotion, then I worked in a label branch office (remember those?) as an advertising coordinator, then I did radio promotion for a major label.  I’ve done stints marketing and sales at 6 major labels and 2 (now 3) independent labels, I did video promotion, I oversaw the entire marketing team at Roadrunner including publicity, online marketing as well as the creative and video production departments.  I have also managed artists, did a short (very short) stint as a club promoter, sold merch on the road for a band that I managed.  Hmmm… what else is there?

Jeb: You started your career working as a promotions director.  You must be good at motivating as I know a lot of music types are not that excited to shake hands and kiss babies.  Some, like Kiss, are probably easy to work with.  But how do you motivate those to do promotions what would rather just be on stage?

Madelyn:  I think in this day and age hungry artists of all levels know what it takes to engage their fans and work hard to grow their bases.  They don’t necessarily need motivation to do so. The established bands, like KISS, obviously know what it takes, they have turned traditional meet and greets into money-making opportunities and paved the way for others.  Now we use technology to augment that meet and greet experience so artists can stay connected to their fans wherever they are 24/7.

What do I do to motivate artists?  I honestly don’t feel artists that we work with need motivation in this area.  We work with pro’s; they’re the ones asking us “What can I do??  Tell me where to be.  Is there anyone I can call?  Need me to sign that?” 

Jeb: You got into the industry for a reason, I assume it was a love of rock and roll.  Tell me what inspired you to take a music industry career path.

Madelyn:  It was a love of music, of course.  Like for many of us, contemporary music was a form of escape, connection, validation.  I grew up in Philadelphia and first fell in love with Philly’s soul sound, my older brother plays drums and he exposed me to progressive rock bands, blues and jazz.  Philly also had a thriving punk scene, and then of course artists like Blondie and The Pretenders forged a path for women.  I remember looking at the back of a Rod Stewart album when I was a kid and seeing a Warner Brothers Records logo and I read the P&C line with its address thinking “What do they do there?  I want to work there.”

Jeb:  Marketing is all over your resume.  What is marketing?  How do you market in today’s crazy music world?  How creative do you have to be and what do you do in order to stay up to date with marketing methods?  Any examples from past bands you’ve worked with?

Madelyn:   I hate this question.  I also love this question… because you’re really making me think about “marketing” and what it means.  But I can’t answer you because we’ll be here for days.  They have entire college curriculums (is that the proper plural?) on “what is marketing?” Because you like examples, I will tell you that one shining example of true marketing is KISS.  Everyone knows this already.  But I lived it.  They could actually create a college course about KISS to teach kids marketing. 

Ideas can come from anywhere, so what I do to stay current is just that:  stay current.  I talk to people, I take meetings with everyone, I read trade mags, sports mags, Hollywood mags.  I try to stay connected to pop culture, (I like terrestrial radio… it was my first love), I talk to young people, I observe people.  I tune in to different genres of music, to different cultures, to sports and entertainment and how it all relates.  And, I listen and eavesdrop.

Jeb: Another tough one, the music world is a male dominated place, more so when you started out.  How did you handle this?  You must be tough to get to where you get, along with being good at what you do. 

Madelyn: This is easier than the last question.  If you’re good at what you do, and approach your work with honesty, integrity and passion, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman… or anything else.

Jeb:  Who have been your favorite artists to work with?  What are the good stories.

Madelyn:  That’s like asking, “which of your children do you love the most?”  You actually may have favorites, but you can’t really admit it without hurting someone’s feelings or pissing someone off.  Of course, there are the good and the not-so-good. Every artist has its unique challenges, whether a superstar or a brand new band; a seasoned pro or someone just learning the biz.  So, to not avoid your question and answer it:  my favorites to work with are those artists who know what it takes to make it; those who show up to work every day with a great work ethic.

Jeb:  Okay, I have to ask…who were the hardest bands to work with?  Spill it! Give me one good example of a creative music type driving you to drink!

Madelyn:  Man, you just want scoop!  I know you want juicy stories, but I truly live a boring existence with no real drama.  Sure, there have been frustrating situations along the way, but everyone has that.  Boring answer, I know, sorry!  I don’t spill!

However, what does drive me to drink (figuratively) is feeling limited by corporate or rigid procedure.  With Loud & Proud and RED, we are free to think, to execute, to do, to say whatever we want.  We are free to be nimble and quick in our decisions and execution.  We’re in a creative industry and we should allow ourselves the freedom to fly, not be hindered by policy and procedure. 

Jeb:  You worked with Tom at Sanctuary.  That was such a cool label.  You helped bring back the music that we love from being abandoned to thriving.  What was that time period like?

Madelyn:  We had such a collection of characters at that label, both with the staff and on the roster.  We put out something like 250 records in a year.  We were all over the place genre-wise, but that’s what made it an exciting place to work.  We had Tom’s roster of classic artists from his CMC label like Skynyrd and the Allmans, we were developing artists such as Tegan & Sara, we worked on a brilliant record from Robert Plant, we had KISS and Megadeth, we had a unique experience with Morrissey.  We also had exciting artists from Music World Entertainment, Mathew Knowles’ label, with Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang, Keith Sweat.  We drew from all of our diverse backgrounds at Sanctuary, pulled it all together and we were quite a team.

Jeb:  Mentoring and teaching are important to you.  Why?  What do you get out of it?  Share a good story as to why you are so concerned with helping others.

Madelyn:  In college I majored in Mass Communications/Radio & TV production.  This was the closest thing to the music business as I could figure out at the time.  My senior year internship at the radio station (WIYY) turned into a full time job upon graduating.  I don’t know if it was as truly as special a job as I remember it, or if I am just romanticizing it because it was my first job and it was EXACTLY where I wanted to be.  But either way, it was a special memory and everyone has that same opportunity. I feel a responsibility to share my experiences and encourage young people to pursue their dreams and work hard to achieve them.

Many of the assistants and coordinators I have had over the years now hold VP or executive titles in the business.  I like to see hard work rewarded.

Jeb:  Last one:  Name a band that you would love to see on Loud & Proud but that you would have to twist Tom’s arm to see your point.  And describe how you go about it!

Madelyn:  I would not dare answer this question…for so many reasons.