Just like any music mogul (Clive Davis, Jimmy Iovine, David Geffen, Quincy Jones, Diddy, and L.A. Reid,) Tommy Mottola has made a lot of frenemies in the business, and depending on who you talk to, you'll either hear stories of great respect, admiration, and gratitude, or resentment and straight-up disdain (remember when Michael Jackson staged a press conference to call him "devilish," blaming him for the poor sales of 2001's Invincible?).
But you don't go from being a college dropout to global CEO of Sony Music Entertainment without a pair of what Harvey Weinstein calls "guts and balls of steel."
If you're looking for beautiful writing, go elsewhere, but if you want a sort of crash course on how the music industry evolved from the time of Elvis to the iPod, and how an Italian American from the Bronx went on to become one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes figures in pop music, then Mottola's new memoir Hitmaker: The Man and his Music is a quick, worthwhile read.
It's ok if you're like my mother and know Mottola simply as "el esposo de Thalía"'. The 63-year-old music mogul has in fact been happily married to everyone's favorite telenovela queen for 12 years and counting, so you'll be glad to know that Mottola does get personal about his relationship with Thalía, as well as that other superstar he was once married to, Mariah Carey.
The way he paints the picture, that marriage, which lasted from 1993 to 1998, was doomed from day one, but who can blame him for falling in love with a 7-octave vocal range like that? At one point in the book, Mottola even apologizes to Mariah, whom he signed to Sony almost immediately after hearing her demo and later fell in love with: "If it seemed like I was controlling, let me apologize again. Was I obsessive? Yes. But that was also part of the reason for her success. Her success and my success. If you're not controlling things when you're running a company with four hundred artists and fourteen thousand employees, you're not going to be successful – or on the job very long. The problem was that I was the chairman of Sony and her husband at the same time. She grew resentful…Things got more difficult and tense by the day."
After managing Hall & Oates, John Mellencamp, Carly Simon, among others, Mottola spent 14 years at Sony, during which he helped launch the careers of Mariah, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, and even Shakira, Ricky Martin, and Marc Anthony during their respective crossover phases. He also worked alongside Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, the Dixie Chicks, George Michael, and Pearl Jam, among others.
If you're a devoted Michael Jackson fan like myself, then you'll be interested in the parts where Mottola talks about managing the King of Pop's emotional ups and downs – and his astronomical budgets for short films (a.k.a. what Michael would call videos).
These days, Mottola's life is much less hectic than portrayed in the book. He stepped down from his Sony post in 2003 and now lives in New York with Thalia and their two young children, Sabrina and Matthew. He heads a global entertainment and media company known as the Mottola Media Group.
Here's a few surprising things we learn about Mottola's personal and professional life through the book: