Industry Spotlight: Bob Divney

We were pleased as punch to catch up with Bob Divney about his 30 years in the biz and all things The Artist Cooperative. Talk about a nice guys finish first pitch. Bob reflected on his road traveled and the road ahead for the veritable Mount Rushmore collective of promo vets. As Managing Partner at The Artist Cooperative, Divney is at the helm of Marketing & National Modern, Active & AAA Promotion. With a masthead boasting titles such as VP of Promotion for Warner Bros Records, and VP of Promotion for The Firm, and a roster of Green Day, Depeche Mode, The B-52’s, Audioslave, and Barenaked Ladies (to barely scratch the surface), Divney is clearly a man of experience and gracious in his appreciation for the career he’s had. We spoke off the bat about the synergy that exists working with old friends and colleagues.

“We (Andrew Govatsos and I) started at Reprise around ‘86, ‘87 maybe.  I was at Reprise Records for about 17 years and then left to go work for management company The Firm, and helped start CO5, which is still going strong today, with Todd and Tracey. Mid-2000’s I had an new opportunity and I left promotion altogether for a Marketing and Distribution gig with Adrenaline which had distribution through ADA, and allowed me to learn how out physically put out records, understand and execute contracts, manage distribution timelines, and co-op advertising, all the things I never had the opportunity to learn doing promotion.”

Following that, Divney spent a couple of years doing freelance marketing and worked with The Doobie Brothers’ for their World Gone Crazy release, as well as a few independent labels.  It was around then that Warner and Reprise merged their promo staffs, and Bob needed some extra team members for a current project.  And thus, 6 months later, The Artist Cooperative was born. “Basically, a lot of us are former Warner-Reprise promotions reps, Andrew Govatsos in Boston, Shanna Fischer joined us from Wind-up and is based in NY from New York, Amit Kumar, Atlanta, who was at Reprise after I was there, Tom Cunningham, who I worked together with at Reprise in Philadelphia; Bob Hathaway from the Warner side is in Chicago. Kathie Romero, who was also at Reprise after I was there, is in Dallas. Rich Garcia, who I worked with at Reprise, is our Denver partner and Nancy Klugman, from Warner Bros is on the West coast.  Last year we also started a second promotion arm called MARS MUSIC RADIO SERVICES  which is run Lynn McDonnell and Lisa Cristiano and Glen Firstenberg from Universal and Apple also joined to run Sales & Marketing Services.”

Divney had been at Warner until 2002. When he moved on from WEA, artist management was the intended path.  “I left Warner’s in 2002 ‘cause I thought I wanted to be a manager and realized that was not something I wanted to do, and fell back into promotion and then learned more.  When you’re at a major label and you’re tasked with doing promotion, that’s really all you know and all you’re allowed to know. I think every opportunity I’ve had since then has brought in my skillset, my ability to not just organize but understand it from the management perspective, and artists’ perspective. We’re essentially doing the same job as at Reprise but we now answer to clients, independent labels.”  Those clients include Nettwerk Records, Kobalt, BMG Rights, alongside major label work and independent artists.

Divney reflected on the nuances of the work now vs. back in the day, pre-Artist Cooperative.  “We’re in a position where we built up this company from nothing and we are invested in our own success.   We are all partners in this company and win or lose we do it together. With the constant changes in the radio & retail landscape, Glen Firstenberg joined a few years ago to help us work with the DSPs and Streaming Platforms to round out complete promotion and marketing services.   Our bet is with the constant consolidation within the industry and the constant downward pressure of physical and digital sales the logical conclusion is that more and more companies will look for savings wherever they can find them and out-sourcing this work will continue to gain traction. Our collective years of experience help our clients be competitive at a fraction of the costs and allows them to re-purpose those savings into other areas.”

And compete they do.  The Artist Cooperative has been proud to be a part of projects that include, Passenger, Andrew McMahon, Family of the Year, The Goo Goo Dolls, Andy Grammer, Boy and Bear, among others.   It’s that thrill that keeps any true music person in the game, decade after decade. “When you’re able to be an extension of our partner labels or independent artists and work as their own private promotion staff, it gives you some investment in the projects over the long term. We not only enjoy it because it’s our business, we enjoy it because we’ve actually been able to break records.“

“Working with our label partners over longer time lines allows you to develop stronger relationships and a shorthand, that leads to greater efficiencies. We provide daily updates on all our current projects for our label partner, we have weekly conference calls and offer our clients complete access to the team. While the nuts and bolts of the promotion work is what we have been doing for years the engagement with the artist and labels we serve is different in that we are more in tune to our client’s needs. They are part of the process and included in the updates and on our conference calls. Our partners can see firsthand the difficulties and help with the heavy lift in breaking by direct participation.”

To this observer, the success feels inevitable – from a Boston kid, an Emerson student working at Strawberries, the progression seems a natural. Divney’s built the skills to build the business, surrounding himself with like-minded talent and building a partnership along the way.

“Working for yourself can be an eat what you kill environment and because you are so close to all aspect of the business you learn to adapt and make changes as you go. The Artist Cooperative works as a major label promotion team and over time, it became evident that to better serve the needs of our clients we needed a way to develop projects on a micro level and that’s when Mars Music Services was born.”

We discuss the nature of sales overall. “It can be a hard job if you have a hard time with rejection, records take a long time to develop and while you are selling a song you are also selling yourself and your credibility and experience when you are advocating for music on behalf of the artist.  The excitement in breaking in developing a project has not gone away after 30 years.”

And then there’s former Reprise “artist,” Morrissey. “We all worked Morrissey together at Reprise as a solo artist and he’s back with his biggest song in well over a decade and breaking at Triple-A Radio and it reminds me that everything in our business in connected from past to present. And yes, KROQ adding the record is still huge!”

And Morrissey’s not the only old friend. “We got to work Barenaked Ladies briefly, which is a record I took a lot of pride in breaking at Reprise.  Reprise had the City of Angels record which was a number one record for the Goo Goo Dolls at alternative and we’re working with them again.  We have a long-term vested interest in the success of these projects. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue to work with these amazing artists”

Not a bad day’s work.

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