Rock star promoter has music industry stories to share

Tony Michaelides is a British record promoter, now living in Pass-a-Grille, who has worked with some of the biggest names in music.
Tony Michaelides is a British record promoter, now living in Pass-a-Grille, who has worked with some of the biggest names in music.
Published Sept. 22, 2014

When you're a young boy growing up in Manchester, England, it's tough not to dream of one day becoming a world-class soccer player.

Tony Michaelides, a 61-year-old bubbly bloke with an alarmingly pleasant disposition and a thick British accent who now lives in Pass-a-Grille, dreamed of just that during his childhood in northern England. He spent hours and hours every day kicking around a soccer ball.

But he always managed to save some time for his other passion. Tony listened to music. Lots of music.

He looked forward to Saturdays, when the new releases on vinyl hit the record stores. He would climb aboard a train and head to his favorite shop to listen to the new music and buy what he could.

When he grew up and realized he was never going to make it as a soccer player — or a musician either; "I played bass in a band . . . badly," he said — he took a humdrum job in a humdrum office. But that lad with broken dreams never gave up hope he'd one day find something better.

In a twist of fate, something better found him.

One day, on the train home from his job, he was reading the classified ads in the Manchester Evening News. Transatlantic Records, a label representing mostly jazz and blues musicians, was looking for a salesperson. He decided to apply, he said: "Don't have a job in the music business now; if I don't get it, I still won't have a job in the music business." He would later find out it was only because of a clerical error at Transatlantic — the ad was supposed to be placed in a trade publication, not the daily paper — that the opportunity presented itself to him.

He landed the job and in 1974, a month after his 21st birthday, he began loading vinyl records into the back of a company van five days a week to peddle to some 20 stores in three cities.

He did that for four years before going from selling records to promoting artists, pitching their music to radio and television stations to get exposure and airplay. He eventually formed his own promotions company, which he ran for 20 years, working with artists such as David Bowie, the Police and Matchbox Twenty.

Eventually, as the new millennium dawned, the Internet would change the business he loved. Record companies downsized. Labels weren't as important to artists.

"Now, it's instant gratification. Put people on television and get people to vote for them. They get signed to a record label," he said. They don't need the labels to pump money into them until they hit it big.

Tony was ready to do something different. In 2004, he moved to Orlando, where his family had vacationed, after being given citizenship as an "alien of extraordinary ability," a prestigious visa given only to those who have risen to the top of their field.

Forty years after loading that first album into that company van in Manchester, he is a United States citizen, has moved to Pass-a-Grille from Orlando and remains, he said, "as excited about music today as I was in my first day in the music business."

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He has reshaped his passion from living it to talking about it. First in a book, The Insights Collection: Insights from the Engine Room (referring to the creative cog in the music industry) and now as a speaker at private events, calling his business "Unveiling the Magic: The Myths & the Legends of Rock n Roll Unveiled: Insights from the Engine Room."

Words spill out of him faster than tunes used to spill out of jukeboxes. He talks about what he did, what he's doing and what he's going to do seemingly all at the same time, with an excitement that makes one hang on every word either out of interest, out of a desire to understand, or both. He's happy and cheerful and charming and chatty.

"I learned from some of the most amazing people who ever graced the music industry," he said. "Who am I if I'm only sharing these stories with a few mates over a couple of beers?"