There is a theory that the audience only sees the tip of the iceberg peeking out of the water (only 10%), while the main chunk of the work and effort of the performance is below the water (90%) – the part that you can’t see. Not only does that ninety-percent include work for the performer, but there is also a team of folks putting their blood, sweat, and tears into the show who aren’t even on stage. Tony Michaelides, a former publicist for huge rockstars like David Bowie and U2, is one of those people. Michaelides, also an author, public speaker, Chief Evangelist at Magic Leap (a company that will change the music, film, and gaming business forever), and the best storyteller I ever met, now calls Saint Petersburg, Florida his home.
He is a humble man and father to two grown-up kids, Jessica and Joe, with a hellova sense of humor. On the outside you see a shiny baldhead, a charming grin, and an English accent that you really have to pay attention to in order to understand every word (Don’t read that like it’s a bad thing. It’s not, because his stories are worth every listening moment). Tony Michaelides (pronounced Michael – ead – es) is a fella who immigrated to The States, from Manchester, in 2004 without any difficulty because he was granted an Alien of Extraordinary Ability Visa (which is basically just a straight green card).
“It’s like my PhD, it kind of opens doors.” Michaelides said with pride as he explained his Visa to me.
Extraordinary – no doubt, but what did this lad actually do in the music industry?
It all started in 1974 when Michaelides applied for a job as a sales person for Transatlantic Records, primarily a folk and jazz label. Mind you, this was a position and genres that he knew nothing about. Well, turns out he didn’t get the job… right away. Six months later the stars aligned and they hired him! (Because the original guy who filled the position had fallen off a mountain when he was stoned, “Those were the days, eh?!” Tony said as he told the tale – I’m telling you, he has the greatest stories!)
Tony went on to work for various record labels to head departments such as Artist Development and Radio and Television Promotions, he even started his own company “Tony Michaelides Promotions,” (where an intern of his went on to manage Coldplay). This led him to work with artists such as Matchbox 20, Stone Roses, Genesis, David Bowie, U2 and a whole bunch more.
Speaking of U2, Michaelides explained, “I had kind of grown up with them,” as he was learning his trade of promoting records, they (U2) were learning theirs.
“As I watched them perform on Live Aid in 1985 I felt a few shivers up my spine, I have to say.” Michaelides recalled as he explained his journey with the band, “I’d toured with the band from 1980-1987 all over the UK. I’d seen them perform at a pub in Manchester to eleven people and here now they were performing to a global audience of 1.4 BILLION people, it was insane! And waking up the following morning and reading what the press were saying. I knew this was it and the rest, well, is history. It’s impossible to explain what it’s like when you have worked with a band right from the start, got them their first radio and TV (promotion), and now everyone knows who they are. They are almost like ‘soap stars’ famous for as long as a lot of people have been alive!”
This next part of his story really makes me stop and think – When Michaelides was eighteen, he saw David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” concert as merely a fan – which he says was one of the finest concerts he had ever seen.
“It was love at first track,” he said as he told the story of when he found a Bowie record in the living room of a girl he was going on a date with (Marie, who later became his wife and mother of his children). He was a massive Bowie fan, and then twenty-five years later he ended up working with David Bowie!
In 1997 Michaelides became the publicist for David Bowie’s Earthling tour. (Was he living the dream, or what?!)
“I have no shame in romancing about it all now,” he said, “I think I have had the time that age allows to look back and reflect and share those stories and embrace those moments. It was an amazing time for a kid from Manchester, born on great bands and amazing music, to be given the opportunity to make a career out of a hobby.” (He even said, “There’s a fine line between humility and a d*** head,” and he certainly is no where near crossing it. I’m telling you, I love this guy!)
Tony, who is now my favorite Englishman, has a plethora of stories to go along with each artist he worked with. Lucky for us, he’s written a book “The Insights Collection: Lessons Learned from Rock and Roll” – An insightful stroll through the music industry through the eyes of one of UKs most illustrious insiders. (Be sure to head over to Tony’s website to purchase your copy today!)
Beyond being a Promotions Executive in the music industry over thirty years and an author, Tony Michaelides is also a public speaker. He shares his wisdom about music and culture at colleges, expos, and music associations (other guests at these events include past Presidents, Heads of State, and Cultural Ministers – fancy).
Currently, he is working on a project that will “rock your world!” It’s top-secret, but I can tell you this much: Tony is extending his love of storytelling into gathering other people’s stories. It is a collaboration between Magic Leap and Ringling College of Art and Design and it will be a priceless archive. Stay tuned to Downtownstpete.com to find out just what it is that they are creating!
If you see Tony Michaelides roaming around Downtown St. Pete, tell him hello from us. Maybe he will share a quick story with you and you will have the chance to fall in love with him, just like I did! Often Tony can be found at downtown St. Pete venue NOVA 535 for their weekly meeting of fellow Entrepreneurs and business owners, the always fun and productive, Entrepreneur Social Club, every Thursday night starting at 6 pm.
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