Her most famous client needs only a name, but Madonna’s famous publicist Barbara Charone can go further: she is known throughout the music industry simply by her initials.
BC’s extraordinary 50-year career is now celebrated in his new memoir, “Access All Areas”, which has been the talk of British industry since it was published late last month. He describes his journey from Chicago, where he grew up, to London, where he moved in the 1970s, through fights with the Eagles, parties with the Rolling Stones, and a brief stint as Rufus Wainwright’s manager.
Originally a music journalist for publications such as the NME and Rolling Stone, he previously wrote the authorized biography “Keith Richards: Life as a Rolling Stone” (Richards even allowed him to move into his famous Redlands mansion to to write).
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Shortly afterwards he moved into public relations, running WEA Warner Music’s in-house press office in London for many years, before setting up his own agency, MBC, with partner Moira Bellas, in 2000.
More than two decades later, MBC is one of the most powerful PR firms in the world, with a client list that includes Foo Fighters, Rod Stewart, Metallica, Depeche Mode and, of course, Madonna, who is represented by Charone on it. United Kingdom since he was an unknown pop promise in the eighties. But while BC has been one of the biggest stars for many years, and the book takes you to many inner sanctuaries, he insists that it is not his style to reveal too many secrets.
“All the artists I work with are incidental, in a way [en el libro]she tells Variety. “‘Access to all areas’ is my journey, so the only person I really talk about is myself.”
Still, he makes clear his disappointment with REM – Charone’s 25-year-old clients – for changing PR without telling him in person (“Fourth year is a long time working with someone ,” he says). “People are only human”); in an interview with Stephen Stills during Charone’s music journalism days he is portrayed “with a rash in his head. He’s only human”); in an interview with Stephen Stills during Charone’s music journalism days Charone is portrayed as having “a chip on his shoulder so big he was surprised he could walk into the room.”
“I don’t think I’m the first person to write that it was like that, in those days for sure,” he says, “but as I always say, famous people are like ordinary people: there are good moods and bad moods – their mood. Some are great and some are not.” “.
For the most part, Charone, who recently received Music Week’s Strat Award for Outstanding Contribution to the UK Music Industry, has made it a point to work only with the greats, balancing great protection for his clients. and very grateful to the media. coverage.
“It sounds crazy, but there are a lot of PR people who don’t like the press that much,” she says, “but I read four or five newspapers a day. I’m a newspaper addict and the more you read, the more the more you know. Then it’s all a matter of location and the best place for the artist”.
The media landscape in the UK has shrunk considerably since the 1980s and 1990s, when there were many highly successful music magazines and dozens of national newspapers moving millions of copies every day, but Charone still believes in the power of the press.
“I miss the print magazine NME and Q. It’s sad, especially for the bands, that no one has filled the void left by Q. But I’m a very positive and optimistic person, you have to be. We can’t change. what happened, but as much as some music magazines have gone, there’s still Mojo, Uncut, Record Collector, Classic Rock and others, so that’s great. And there are so many we have daily newspapers, it’s really incredible. We’re lucky to work in England, because we still have a healthy press compared to the rest of the world.”
There’s an episode in the book where Charone calls a publisher to protest a three-star review for REM, until a series of reviews so lukewarm come in that he realizes it might actually be a three-star album. He says he rarely complains about these things, but insists criticism is still important.
I always care about them because I care about them, and the artists care about them,” he says, “and the artist is quite central to this whole thing: they see everything and it’s not a good thing an unhappy artist.” Sometimes you are but I don’t think a bad review can ruin anyone’s career now. It’s just one person’s subjective opinion and taste.”
Charone wrote “Access All Areas” in lockstep after Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie found one of her old Rolling Stones interviews and encouraged her to reissue his book on Keith Richards (Charone spent time with Richards in Canada while he was waiting for tried for heroin possession, forming a band that continues to this day, with MBC representing his solo work). Instead, he decided to write the book, after a few drinks, that he always told his friends he wanted to write, documenting a life as interesting – and sometimes wild – as that of his clients. .
Charone fondly remembers his time at the majors, when he fought tooth and nail to keep artists on the team, but says the decline of the record label press team in recent years has helped specialist agencies succeed. year and there is enough work for everyone). However, unlike independent PR agencies, he says he is never afraid to disagree with his colleagues.
“If someone says no, you try to push them to say yes, but sometimes they really don’t, and you have to move on. In the end, it’s the artist who decides what to do, it’s it’s her life.”
Charone admits to the odd misjudgment (“I was offered Lana Del Rey when she was a complete unknown and I said no, just because I didn’t understand. So that was one of the ones I missed”), but there is a significant insight on the MBC list. a balance between British up-and-comers such as Sea Girls and Rag’N’Bone Man and global superstars. But some clients, like Madonna, are definitely tougher than others.
“Everyone is picky,” he laughed. “I’m not being diplomatic: it’s amazing to work with someone like Madonna. I still don’t think she gets enough credit for the legacy of work she’s left and continues to put out.”
Sports fan Charone has recently taken on a new role, as a non-executive director of English Premier League football club Chelsea, which was recently acquired by American businessman Todd Boehly. Charone has been an obsessive Chelsea fan since moving to London, but says the new job won’t distract her from her PR business.
“I don’t understand that I won’t have time to do all my work at MBC,” he said. “I’m not managing the Chelsea team so I think I’ll be fine.”
He also insists that the success of his book will not turn into a new career (a more gossipy second installment is unlikely because “it’s not in my nature to be that way”), and that there are no retirement plans in sight.
“The pressure is always great with PR,” he says, “but I love it, because it’s different for every artist. And you don’t know what will happen on the day. Anyone can call on this evening and say, ‘I’ve found this cool new band or this great artist,’ and that’s exciting.
“Of course, nothing is forever, but for the immediate future, I will definitely continue,” he says. “I like to work”.
“Access All Areas” is out now, published by White Rabbit Books.