Go to main content

Email Interview With Mike Omansky

September 23, 2001 | People
Last week the we learned that BMG is cutting down. Therefor Mike Omansky will leave BMG. This EmailInterview is not an exit-interview, word is he will keep a relation with BMG as a consultant. In this interview he tells us something about the man behind the name and shares his views on the latest developments at BMG and some other issues.

Can you tell us something about Mike Omansky, the person?

I am a high-energy business professional with both a marketing and "bottom-line" orientation. I started my career in consumer packaged goods companies (General Foods, Nabisco Brands), and crossed over to the music/entertainment industry in 1984.

I enjoy many genres of music in real life (classic rock, pop, R&B, Broadway shows); am an avid fan of professional wrestling (many years ago helped pay my way through business school by editing and publishing a wrestling magazine in the U.S.); attend pro sports and Broadway shows.

Are you an Elvis-fan yourself?

I am not a die-hard Elvis fan to the degree of your readers; nonetheless, I really love his musical work. I really believe that no one could touch people with a musical performance like Elvis, and I don't foresee anyone in our lifetime coming up to his level.

What was the difference between your policies on Elvis and the people managing him before you?

There were many differences...here are a few.

a. Releases were planned from release to release...I implemented a long-term "five year" plan at all times. Obviously, the "five year" plan was fluid and changed on an on-going basis; however, it gave RCA and BMG worldwide a "road map" on where we were headed.
b. I reduced the Elvis committee from dozens of people in a room to four key people: Klaus Schmalenbach of BMG; Ernst Jorgensen; Roger Semon; and me. We would have occasional invitees to meetings, such as Bob Jamieson, Neil Foster and Vicky Sarro of RCA, but it was kept tight and focused.
c. I understood the full value of Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon, who are exceptionally talented and professional, and tried not to tie their hands or get in their way in creating excellent product.
d. I put marketing money behind our releases; revived Elvis at U.S. retail (sales have doubled in the past 5 years); expanded international retail efforts working with Klaus. I made Elvis a regular on QVC (we did $1 million in sales on my appearances in the past year, for example, and got the exposure to drive consumers to traditional retail at the same time).
I opened new outlets for sale of Elvis product. I did the continuity series with Time-Life (first time they did a series on a specific artist/over 2 million double albums sold in the U.S. to date via mail order); albums into Christian book stores; etc. etc.
e. I eliminated "shocking" Elvis out with "budget" releases by special markets divisions around the world.
f. Established Elvis as a major priority for RCA Records once again, not an after-thought.
g. Strengthened relations between RCA and EPE.

h. Worked with Ernst to aggressively seek and recover missing tapes from RCA -- very successfully.

There are more -- but I think you get the idea.

Have you any idea how Elvis will be handled from now on by BMG? 2002 is a "big year", but after that?

Hopefully BMG will carry the ball on the franchise. There is clearly an understanding of the on-going sales potential of Elvis, and that bodes well for the franchise. The next major opportunity after the 25th anniversary is a few years later -- 50th anniversary with RCA.

Last August in Memphis several people suggested that after the 25th anniversary the attention for Elvis will decline. What is your opinion?

Disagree 100%. 25th anniversary will get major media attention. The Disney animated film "Lilo & Stitch" will be a good lead-in, targeted to kids, with 6 Elvis songs in the film and the soundtrack, and a massive global cross promotion; RCA will have a definitive album; and media attention to Elvis will be huge.

How do you and the "Elvis Committee" (Roger Semon, Ernst Jorgensen or Klaus Schmalenbach) work on an Elvis release, can you tell us how an idea gets into an actual release?

We look to do releases that have varying degrees of appeal -- to the Elvis fan base (such as "Live in Las Vegas"), and some to wider audiences (like "Love Songs"). We try to keep a balance of not too much product, but not too little either, based on consumer demand. Many of the "fan base" releases are obvious based around the recovery of unreleased recordings. We also look across Elvis' life and career and look to document different angles -- the Las Vegas box set obviously again a good example of historical documentation with commercial appeal.

What do you consider your biggest Elvis success, and why?

Biggest success is the overall success at BMG -- through our approach to Elvis, with artistic respect and marketing efforts, more than doubling the business in the past 6 years. Elvis is a major BMG artist -- make no mistake about that.

Do you follow news on the WWW to stay informed on what's going on in the Elvis World?

Yes, I stay in touch by checking a number of websites. However, that being said, there are many inaccuracies about our future plans...many times I have read about forthcoming RCA releases that I have never planned on, discussed, or approved.

Each EmailInteview has some standard questions. What, in general, is your favorite Elvis stuff?

Personally -- rock and ballads. I love "Always on My Mind", "In the Ghetto", "Suspicious Minds", "Can't Help Falling in Love", and "Hound Dog". Elvis' vocals are awesome in all of these.

Name your favorite Elvis song, movie, album and tell us why.

I'm not a fan of the movies; songs noted above; "Platinum" because I'm biased -- loved chronicling his career through mostly alternative takes, and it was the centerpiece of a major successful global campaign for the 20th.

What is your favorite Elvis site, and why?

Paul Dowling's Worldwide Elvis. It is closer to accurate than many of the others regarding RCA stuff; an easy scan.

What is your favorite Elvis book? Again.. Why?

It's a tie -- the Ernst Jorgensen books, because I think the world of Ernst.

How do you remember Elvis' passing?

I was stunned, even though this was before I came into the music industry. Similar to John Lennon's death -- disbelief; loss of an icon.

And to close some more specific questions for you...

Looking at the future, how big is the chance you stay involved "in Elvis" as a consultant?

At this point, looks probable.

The Elvis World is a strange one, there's a lot of jealousy and competition. Did you make friends in this world, and are you going to stay in contact with people in the Elvis world?

I am aware of the jealousy/competition, which is sort of sad because you all share a common passion. I made a few friends, but if I spent my time responding to letters and e-mails all day, I would never have gotten my job done and the world never would have gotten the product flow, so I limited the contact. Particularly memorable are Paul Dowling, Walter Pacheco, Pete Smith -- love their enthusiasm.

Do you know if any other members of the "Elvis Committee" will leave BMG?

As I respond, it looks like they'll be around. BMG is a different place, though, so anything can happen. I hope they have the wisdom to keep Klaus, Ernst and Roger in place, and I hope to continue to work with them (and vice versa) from the outside.

The 2CD set you announced last August is the first "victim" of the "BMG-downsizing". Are any other products cancelled (e.g. the 25th Anniversary Box set, or the FTD label).

The product flow is being juggled as BMG juggles. The 2CD set that I announced in August was changed from outtakes to a country album at my recommendation. I thought that both