Marsha Vlasic Told Lou Reed, ‘I Just Can’t Do This Anymore’

Marsha Vlasic gained’t tolerate bullshit, and he or she’s seen all of it. For over 40 years, the veteran music government has wielded her energy and affect to steer the careers of Neil Young, Elvis Costello, the Strokes, and Iggy Pop. In 2014, Vlasic left ICM Partners after six years to turn into president of Artist Group International, the place she now represents everybody from Billy Joel to Cyndi Lauper to Metallica, and reveals no indicators of slowing down. “I’m gonna rock until I drop,” she tells New York over the telephone in her thick, classic Brooklyn accent. New York spoke to Vlasic about breaking floor within the music enterprise as one of many first-ever feminine brokers, falling out with Lou Reed, talking out towards Grammy president Neil Portnow, and the ability of claiming no.

What do you suppose was one of many first profession strikes you made that obtained you to the place you might be at present?
Those explicit maneuvers I by no means dreamed could be the maneuvers that will get me to the place I'm. There wasn’t a highway that was paved out that I adopted, or an imprint or a plan. I really feel like I used to be on the proper time and place. I suppose that being an assistant to a few loopy brokers within the early ’70s ready me to take the leap of religion and turn into an agent.

Were these loopy brokers all males?
Yes, they have been. At that point, I turned one among three girls brokers in all the enterprise. And there weren’t girls in document corporations and publishing. Maybe a couple of in PR, however so far as brokers, there have been solely three of us. At the time, I used to be given the chance as a result of one of many three loopy brokers I used to be working for was leaving to go handle one among his bands, and he assumed I used to be coming with him as his assistant. I used to be given the selection of — did I need to keep and take his place? It was an unbelievable alternative.

Since there have been no different girls brokers to look as much as if you first obtained began, how did you find yourself on this profession? It’s laborious to see your self as one thing when there isn’t a precedent for it.
I didn’t suppose at the moment, I’m a girl, and I don’t belong on this trade. I’m a girl, why would I attempt to be in an trade that’s all males? It was simply a chance, and I cherished it. It was intercourse, medicine, and rock ‘n’ roll — what else would have I been doing? I used to be up for the problem to persuade males —  managers at the moment — that I might really give them the knowledge and supply them with no matter they wanted to know. That was an enormous problem.

How did you get via the door within the first place to turn into an assistant?
That’s a comic story. I used to be relationship a musician who was performing on the Copacabana, which was an enormous membership on the time, and in the event you went to hang around there, you weren’t allowed to be within the precise membership. You have been on this adjoining bar. I befriended one among these go-go dancers, and he or she mentioned to me one time that I positively needed to meet her managers as a result of they might use me. Because I used to be working on the time as an assistant to the playwright Frank Loesser. But I actually wasn’t his assistant, I used to be working within the bookkeeping division or one thing very unimportant. I went and met her managers. They have been loopy. I imply, actually very nuts. It was Spinal Tap. They had the producers, that they had the casting sofa, that they had go-go dancers. It was actually a special world. I began to work for them. They didn’t even find out about taking taxes out. It was simply loopy. And from there, I began to fulfill different folks, and that’s once I obtained a job at American Talent International working for these three loopy brokers.

While climbing that ladder, when did you first begin to really feel such as you had energy and affect?
When you don’t need to beg for the precise credentials, you will have energy. When you will get right into a venue and persons are ready so that you can arrive, that’s one among them. Also, the ability to say no, to make selections. The energy to characterize somebody or not characterize them and say, “This relationship is just not working, and I believe we shouldn't be collectively.”

Do you keep in mind one of many first instances you felt such as you have been ready to say no?
I’ll inform this simply because he’s not with us anymore, so I really feel like I’m not speaking out of faculty, however Lou Reed and I have been very shut, we had an excellent relationship. But then when he would get sort of unreasonable — I’m saying that kindly — I did one time say to him, “Lou, I can’t do that anymore. I simply can not.” And he was so upset by it that we resolved it. But there have been instances like that that have been actually laborious.

You instructed him flat-out that you just didn’t suppose you might proceed representing him if issues didn’t change?
Yes. I didn’t understand it might harm him that a lot. He actually was harm by it, and it moved me. As robust as everyone might imagine I'm, I’m very delicate and emotional.

If you have been in that scenario 10 to 15 years prior, do you suppose you'll’ve had the authority to face your floor with the identical conviction?
Probably not.

How did you acquire that confidence?
I believed in myself, completely. I used to be a risk-taker. Even on the phone, when somebody would say to me, “How a lot would so and so price for therefore and so?” I'd title a worth that I'd cringe myself at and never consider that I'd really say.

Were there instances when taking a danger backfired and also you needed to settle for defeat?
Yeah, however not simply. I'm going down preventing fairly laborious.

How do you navigate conditions when a colleague, perhaps even a male superior, is unsuitable and also you’re proper, however it's important to concede to their argument?
It occurs day by day with artists who don’t wanna take your recommendation. But you principally work for them, and in the event you consider in them, you’ll surrender the problem. And if it doesn’t work, I'd by no means say, “See I instructed you so.” I’ll at all times shield my artists as in the event that they’re one among my kids. I’ll by no means allow them to fail.

How do you tow that delicate line between defending and coddling? It should really feel generally like it's important to assume the mother-figure function and child these artists, particularly males.
I want I felt free sufficient to provide you this instance you'll love to listen to. But the thought course of is, agan, I can solely lead the horses to water. I can not drink it for them. I’m very lucky as an agent that I've these direct relationships with my artists, which isn't common with an agent. But whether or not I'm that older lady and there's that feeling of mentoring or mothering, regardless of the case could also be, 95 p.c of my artists really feel snug and free sufficient to speak to me immediately. And the managers don’t really feel threatened by that. This explicit artist, whom I can’t point out, I've sat with many instances and mentioned, “You can’t do it this manner; it is senseless. You’re going to lose cash. We can do it this manner.” And give him the choices. And it’s no go. So then I say, “Okay, I’ll take this roller-coaster trip with you and do it your method. You’ve heard my method and really feel this strongly. I consider in you as an artist. You need me to consider in you.” I don’t write the songs. I don’t give them the stage. So there must be that sort of respect.

It nearly appears like it's important to alter your language to make them really feel reassured that they’re heard, not the opposite method round.
Oh, certain. It’s like kids. Different kids want various things. Same for husbands.

Is there a distinction working with male shoppers versus feminine?
No, and I characterize many feminine artists. With the entire #MeToo motion, there’s extra of a stress on the intercourse. Of being a feminine versus male, and is that the explanation for such and such. But for all of the years that I used to be arising and dealing via this all, it wasn’t as featured that method. There wasn’t that a lot emphasis on “do you're feeling that method as a result of she’s a girl or as a result of he’s a person.”

Do you're feeling that it’s higher that conversations are being framed that method now?
It’s very wholesome that it’s a subject of dialog. But what I really feel very strongly about is, I don’t need to see millennial girls utilizing this as an excuse to be victimized. Lots of younger women, once I’ve given talks and performed panels, they’ll come as much as me after and say, “It’s so laborious for us girls.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute, honey. This is 2018. You don’t know what laborious is. You have an open door — stroll via it, struggle via it, energy via it.”

Speaking of #MeToo, you have been one of many many feminine document execs who signed a letter demanding that Grammy president Neil Portnow resign. What motivated you to signal it, and do you're feeling like that’s one thing you'll’ve had the ability to do even 10 or 15 years in the past?
I positively would’ve 15 years in the past. It wouldn’t have bothered me. I assumed what he mentioned was a horrible factor, very inappropriate and simply horrible. I simply felt, Why ought to he have the ability to get away with one thing like this? People make errors, true, however what he mentioned was simply out and out unsuitable.

Was there any concern among the many group of ladies who signed it that doing so would possibly get you blacklisted, or was there power in numbers?
I by no means thought it might harm me in any method. I felt very assured about it, and I felt assured about my colleagues being a part of it. I by no means even thought for a minute, Is this the precise factor for my popularity? I felt strongly that this man was unsuitable.

If you're feeling snug speaking about this, have you ever ever personally skilled any type of misconduct in your years within the music enterprise?
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Is that one thing you’re prepared to speak about?
No. That I’m not. But it wasn’t something that was shattering to me, let’s put it that method. It was intimidation and a certain quantity of harassment. But, once more, in these days it was intercourse, medicine, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Have you discovered that these are widespread unstated experiences amongst many ladies within the trade?
It’s not spoken about that a lot as a result of there have been so few girls. You have this motion now as a result of it includes so many ladies. We have been a minority then. At the time, if anyone had mentioned, “He’s actually, actually out of line,” it in all probability would’ve been you accused of inflicting it. You have been flirting. You weren't dressed appropriately. The lady would’ve been blamed excess of folks opening their eyes to it.

Has being ballsy been a double-edged sword in your profession? It provides you a aggressive edge, however it could actually additionally harm you.
When a girl is hard and robust, males hear her screaming and yelling when she hasn’t even raised her voice. That’s what I discovered hardest. Yes, I did need to yell louder. Yes, I did need to make my level more durable to be heard. I needed to struggle to be heard.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.