The former head of Sony Music Entertainment pens an earthy, self-congratulatory memoir of his rise to the top of the music industry during its most lucrative era.
With an assist from co-author Fussman (After Jackie: Pride, Prejudice, and Baseball's Forgotten Heroes: An Oral History, 2007, etc.), Mottola affects a conversational style steeped in the flavors of his Bronx origins. “Arthur Avenue was one of my first tastemakers,” he writes. “It taught me what is good.” The mélange of sounds he heard in his childhood neighborhood—black doo-wop, Italian pop and Latin salsa, among others—would stay with him as he became a tastemaker for the world. Actually, Mottola came of age in Westchester, where he attended a prep school. He skipped college and, with his parents’ backing, attempted to launch a musical career as a Bobby Darrin–style crooner under the stage name T.D. Valentine. While he never scored a hit of his own, Mottola learned what went into making hits for other people. His star rose as a music manager when he gently steered his first clients Hall & Oates away from folk and progressive rock to their trademark blue-eyed Philly soul. Mottola was virtually unique among his corporate peers in having the experience of working as a musician and manager, and he used it to great advantage, carefully molding the careers of Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion and Shakira. Most notoriously, perhaps, he tightly controlled the output of ex-wife Mariah Carey; she wanted to break out into hip-hop and got pushed into making an album of Christmas music instead. “You’re trying to make me into a franchise,” she once told Mottola. “What do you think I am, McDonald’s?” The author concedes that he might have wronged Carey, but he is unapologetic about his role in turning the music business into a global multibillion-dollar corporate industry. Approving blurbs from colleagues between chapters back him up.
Music lovers will be divided over whether they agree with Mottola and friends that those contributions were net positive, but business students will find his insiders’ view valuable and his street smarts charming.