The State of Music Publishing

FRANK J. OTERI: Arnold, how did you get started in this whole thing?

ARNOLD BROIDO: Well, I was a music teacher. I graduated from Ithaca College in 1941, taught in Binghamton, went to war, World War II, came out of it and went back up to Binghamton, because under the law at that time, they had to hold my job for me. And when they told me what they would pay me I pointed out that I had gotten married in the interim and I couldn’t feed my wife because she had a big appetite. And they said, sorry, that’s the best that they could do. So I thought, what shall I do? Well, I’ve got a chance to look around at other teaching situations, and what do I do in the meantime? A friend of mine had gone to work for something called the Music Publishing Association, a corporation and hmm, I know the head of Boosey, Hawkes and Belwin and I will go and see him and I did. And he said, “Alas, my son Harold has taken Boosey and Hawkes away from me. And while I am disinheriting him and will never speak to him again, I know that he needs people, so why don’t you go see Harold?”

FRANK J. OTERI: [laughs]

ARNOLD BROIDO: So I went to see him and Harold said, “Hey, I was looking for you and didn’t know it. You are the new head of the stockroom, and I am going to pay you $35 a week.” I said, “$35 a week!” I drifted out of the office, called up my wife and I said, “We are the richest creatures!” $35 a week!

FRANK J. OTERI: [laughs] Wow, the world has changed.

ARNOLD BROIDO: And that’s how I became a music publisher.

FRANK J. OTERI: How about Tom? I mean, obviously you were born into…

TOM BROIDO: How did I get into this? I answered an ad in a newspaper.

FRANK J. OTERI: [laughs]

ARNOLD BROIDO: That’s absolutely true.

FRANK J. OTERI: Is that true?

ARNOLD BROIDO: I was the most surprised guy in the world when I found him working for us.

TOM BROIDO: Actually, I started out working for Presser in summer vacations when I was 16, I guess. I filled orders, I brought skids back from the warehouse to the shipping department. In those days, stock orders were filled in the warehouse. I painted. Walls that are – there are still some walls that have my paint on them in this building. I remember one night, I don’t remember what year it was… sometime in the early 1970’s… I watched the movie The Exorcist with a bunch of friends and then came back here, I was in my mother’s car, and I came back here and I was painting the front wall. I remember exactly where I was, I was in the little office with the file cabinets outside my office, and this building, which is a very old building, makes a lot of noises at night. I didn’t think anything of it, I got my paint out, my brushes, and the rollers, and I was rolling, and all of a sudden I started hearing the pipes banging. And I didn’t even clean the brushes, I just put everything down, and said I can’t be here, you know. I locked the building, and I went out to the car, and I’m driving home, and I got to the traffic light at that corner over there, and I was so spooked that I actually went like this and looked into the back seat. I had gotten myself so spooked, I mean. So anybody who says that’s not a scary movie.

FRANK J. OTERI: And after that you wanted to come work here? [laughs]

TOM BROIDO: Sometimes I still get a little spooked at night, in the warehouse, or something, you know.

FRANK J. OTERI: Now, you obviously grew up with music all around you.

TOM BROIDO: Yes.

FRANK J. OTERI: Did you play music?

TOM BROIDO: I played violin until I was 12 years old. Never mastered much of anything, and then when I was 12, the orchestra teacher encouraged me to take up sports. Because I was not really good at sitting still during lessons…

FRANK J. OTERI: You should have played the trumpet. And stood up, and moved around.

ARNOLD BROIDO: It was the teacher.

FRANK J. OTERI: I’m sure, because I really believe that everybody has in them the basic ability to play and create and appreciate music.

TOM BROIDO: I don’t want to sound corny, and I really don’t want to come off as corny in this interview about this, but I believe in fate. And I think that I wasn’t born to write music. I think I would have written some by now if I had been. I would have had some urge. I love music, and I have a good ear, and to a certain extent I think that because I didn’t become an active musician, all of my energies went into this… I think I’m doing what I was supposed to be doing, which is being a music publisher and advocating for composers, not being one myself. And because I’m not a failed musician or a failed composer, I have no jealousies of the success of my composers. So that, you know, I’m perfectly happy to see them be as successful as they possibly can be and don’t think, oh, gee, I should be on stage getting that accolade. Because I love my role, which is to be in the background. One quick story¥ I was once at Tanglewood, and a composer was in line with me to see the conductor, who had conducted the Boston Symphony. And this composer got to the front with me, the conductor said, “Gee, didn’t you write a second symphony a couple of years ago?” And the composer said, “Yes, I did.” And the conductor said, “Gee, why haven’t I seen the score of this?” And the composer turned to me and said, “Tom, you’re the publisher.” And I knew the conductor, and I said, “Well, we’ll make sure you get one before you get back home.” And we left the meeting there, and the composer said to me, “I can’t believe this, I thought we talked about the list of conductors that were going to get that score.” And I said, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that, not only did he get one, but we got it back already.” And she said, “Really?” And I said, “Yeah, yeah.” So she said, “Well, then why didn’t you say that?” And I said, “Because it would have embarrassed him, and it would have embarrassed you, and it wouldn’t have gained anything.” And she said, “Yeah, but it’s embarrassing for you.” And I said, “Yeah, but, you know, I don’t know who’s more important, necessarily, I mean, people would disagree. Some people would say the conductor is more important than the composer. Some people would say the composer is more important than the conductor. But almost everybody in the world would be able to agree on who’s number 3 in that conversation. And that’s the publisher. The publisher’s ego must be sublimated to the performers and to the composer. The publisher is the go-between.”

FRANK J. OTERI: That’s a really beautiful story.

TOM BROIDO: In fact, we had the score and it had been returned.

FRANK J. OTERI: [laughs]

ARNOLD BROIDO: The first day I went to work for Frank Loesser, at Frank Music, he said to me, “You know, you have to remember something. A publisher has no ego. He is merely the middleman between the genius and the public.” I thought, oh, well, that’s interesting. I hadn’t ever thought of it.

FRANK J. OTERI: Although Loesser was a genius of a composer and a brilliant publisher as well.

TOM BROIDO: And also a master furniture builder!

ARNOLD BROIDO: He was the only true genius I ever met. Because he was 6 feet off the ground on everything. Because he was right. The publisher should have no ego.

FRANK J. OTERI: He’s one of my biggest heroes, actually.

TOM BROIDO: I mean, you have to have enough ego that drives you to do your job well, and so on and so forth. But you have, it has to be transparent enough, so that when something like that comes up, you don’t sit there and say, hey, wait a minute … On one level, it would have been appropriate for me to do it. And I would like to do it. But it would have been a disaster. Because it would have been embarrassing, it would have made an unnecessarily uncomfortable moment. And so, in fact, we had an opportunity to send him another score that he had requested, which he hadn’t requested the first time. And who knows if he even saw the first one, because it may have been screened and sent back.

FRANK J. OTERI: That’s great. And for all we know, he might actually subsequently do a piece…

TOM BROIDO: Well, he hasn’t, because I keep tracking those things, but you never know.