This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Bobbii Hach Jacobs, CEO, LITV Entertainment Group.
LITV Entertainment Group is the portfolio holder of three remarkable immersive, flagship events–Live In The Vineyard (Oct. 31-Nov. 3rd, 2019); Live In The Vineyard Goes Country (May 14-16, 2019); and Yountville Live (March 14-17, 2019) that take place in California’s charming Napa Valley.
Whereas LITV’s goal is to provide pre-selected audience members access to an ultimate VIP moment by combining live acoustic music with high-end wines, and world-class foods, it also offers them almost unheard of access to musicians who themselves may cultivate relationships with not only each other, but with top-level media, entertainment, and brand contacts.
In 2008, Bobbii Hach Jacobs, and Claire Parr (from a 3rd generation music business family who had worked at Burns Media; Enigma, Geffen, and Curb labels; and continues to operate The Navigator Company, and Claire West Design) co-founded Live In The Vineyard to share a weekend of music, food, and wines.
Over time this single moment morphed into three of most successful private music, food and wine events in the world.
Now in its 11th year, Live In The Vineyard will feature acoustic performances by over 40 artists performing at more than 30 estates and vineyards.
Among the artists performing are Kelsea Ballerini, Natasha Bedingfield, Delacey, Nicolle Galyon, Madison Kozak, Adam Lambert, Avril Lavigne, Maren Morris, Meghan Patrick, Caitlyn Smith, Maddie & Tae, Delta Rae, and Walk Off The Earth.
There will also be several private VIP-only events during Live In The Vineyard that will feature acoustic performances by King Calaway, for KING & COUNTRY, Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra), Ryan Griffin, A Thousand Horses, Brett Kissel, OBB, Sugar Ray, Wyn Starks, Stephanie Quayle, and others.
Interestingly, Live In The Vineyard is available only to sweepstakes winners and special invited guests—just over 800 attendees. More about this later
In 2015, as Hach Jacobs and Parr evolved the food side of Live In The Vineyard they co-created Yountville Live with a culinary focus and the added components of wine and music in the heart of the Michelin restaurant scene of Napa.
In 2017, Hach Jacobs created LITV Entertainment Group as an overhead consulting company for major brands to build intimate events.
In 2018, Hach Jacobs and corporate partner CMT developed In The Vineyard Goes Country, born from the success of Live In The Vineyard.
Hach Jacobs began her career while studying communications at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She was one of AT&T’s leading campus representatives there, and also interned for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Columbia Records.
After graduation, Hach Jacobs moved to Los Angeles, working for the radio tip sheet Hitmakers followed by a stint at newly-launched Lava Records followed by launching her own marketing and promotions company, Leverage MPC, and then working at HITS magazine.
In 2005, she launched BSG Entertainment integrating entertainment, corporate promotions, and marketing. In the spring of 2006, she moved her corporate base from Los Angeles to Denver.
Live In The Vineyard was born in the summer of 2008, and was conceived as a one-off event. Its success quickly led to the co-founders being asked to reprise the event the following year.
It’s near impossible to describe how the event, now without Parr, has kept snowballing, but Hach Jacobs tells the story well.
What is it about wine, food, acoustic music, and a beautiful Napa Valley setting that so highlight your LITV Entertainment Group events?
It is so magical when you combine music, food, and wine together, but really Napa Valley is so beautiful, and the backdrop is really special that it brings out all of the creative senses that people have.
So the events are very much anchored by location, location, location.
Well, that’s true. Years and years ago, when we were first trying to describe all this….. When you think about what it would sound like in an article or what it would sound like on a radio station, you’d say, “Come to the Legendary Napa Valley,” or you said, “Come to the legendary”…… I don’t know, “California.”
I do like better, “A Girlfriend’s Getaway To Napa.”
Exactly. It sounds fantastic.
That’s the tagline you used for the very first event which was planned as a one-off.
I’ve had difficulty explaining Live In The Vineyard to my friends.
When we are out there hitting the street and building up sponsors, and building the awareness; the brand, it is so hard to explain. When people ask, “What is Live In The Vineyard?” I go, “Okay, I am going to show you some photos, and show you a video, but until you actually are there, and experience it, it is really, really hard to put in a true description. It is an intimate pairing of music and wine, but it’s also a once in a lifetime experience of things that will never happen again. As far as artist collaborations or just artists supporting one another or just the passion that goes into it. It really, really is one of a kind.
Live In The Vineyard is now in its 11th year.
It is now a multi-format event.
Live In The Vineyard Goes Country kicked off in 2018.
That is held in May in Napa, and that focuses on country music. CMT is our presenting sponsor of that event.
Another LITV event since 2015 is Yountville Live in March.
Yountville is in the heart of Napa Valley.
You took over an existing festival located in Yountville?
What we did was that we did a wrap-a-round of Taste of Yountville which is 27 years old. It’s been going for years and years. We put a VIP package together, and we really elevated Taste of Yountville which used to be little tents in front of all of the restaurants in Yountville. Where you’d walk the streets with plastic glasses, and napkins and things like that. Where you had tastes. Taste of Yountville. What we said was that, “The town of Yountville is so beautiful; it’s so exclusive; it’s so picturesque; why not make this an elevated experience, and really, really step in and partner with the town of Yountville to create this elevated experience of another brand,” meaning the town of Yountville? Yountville is just so amazing. It is brand in of itself because (chef) Thomas Keller and all of his restaurants are headquartered there. The French Laundry, Adhoc, and Bouchon Bistro, they are headquartered in Yountville.
(Currently, Thomas Keller holds 7 star ratings from the Michelin Guide. He was the first American male chef to be designated a Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor, the highest military and civic decoration in France. He is the author of numerous cookbooks. His award-winning “The French Laundry” cookbook debuted in 1999, followed by “Bouchon” and “Under Pressure,” a cookbook dedicated to sous vide preparations– the process of vacuum-sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. He also authored “Ad Hoc at Home,” a book of family-style recipes.”
Are the chefs for your events local?
We don’t really bring in chefs for Live In The Vineyard. We do a lot of partnering with Napa Valley chefs, and catering companies we work very closely with in Napa.
Celebrity chefs are growing in popularity at live events.
We work with celebrity chefs for Yountville Live.
In 2010, Southwest Airlines dedicated a co-branded, decaled Boeing 737 to their flying fleet with the Live In The Vineyard logo on the airplane, and started the highly-successful Live at 35 concerts in the air.
Live at 35 is where artists sing on a Southwest Airlines’ Live In The Vineyard flight. We identify the artist, and we ask them to perform at 35,000 feet.
Artists actually sing live during the flight?
They sing live, and we capture it on video, and with our video content team, we put a video together, and then we push it out through social media shortly after the flight. It is a great opportunity for an artist to reach fans. Southwest loves it. Their customers love it. It’s a surprise and a delight.
The next Live In The Vineyard takes from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3rd. How many people will attend?
It’s a total of 832 people that will come to the Uptown Theatre for the main event. What we do is that we lay out the grid, lay out the numbers of people, and when we know how many tickets, that is when we reach out to the (local) community. We give tickets to wineries, the restaurants, and to our partners, to our Bay Area partners, and others.
Tickets to the event are available only to sweepstakes winners, and special invited guests. Do sweepstake winners pay for their tickets?
No. You win or you bid on the ticket, and the money goes to charity. We have done charity auctions where people bid on tickets. But really you get tickets through our sponsorships, and through winning across the United States on the radio. We have also given artists (ticket) opportunities. Like Avril Lavigne has a charity which we gave two tickets for. She’s giving them away to her charity. For every single event, we always mix it up, and we give a certain amount of allotted tickets to artists to give away. Whether it’s an artist’s charity or whether it’s a charity that we are near and dear to. Or whether it’s a school auction. We are always donating tickets to different partners, friends, and family to really get the word out.
(Tickets for Live In The Vineyard are only available through specific promotions featured on the website running on iHeart Radio, Westwood One, Townsquare Media, Cumulus, Radio Disney, The Bobby Bones Show, and local market participating stations. Fans can also get tickets through sweepstakes and offerings with LITV charity partners Musicians On Call and St. Jude. Southwest Airlines also hosts a sweepstakes for fans to enter to win tickets. Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card members can redeem their Rapid Rewards points. Also, Marriott Bonvoy members can also redeem their points for the chance to attend.)
How about the Live In The Vineyard’s VIP events which attract sponsors, broadcasters, music supervisors, label executives, managers, media, and assorted tastemakers? Do they pay for that VIP access?
No. We always say that everybody is a VIP because in the music business you are all VIPs. Basically, everybody is a VIP. What is happening with Live In The Vineyard, which is really funny, is that when my staff looks at the grid, they are like, “Well everybody is listed as a VIP.” I’m like, “Yeah, we need to change that.” We have broken everybody down into categories. So if you are a sponsor, you come in as a hospitality play. Or if you are a VIP, meaning press, programmers, influencers, music supervisors, publishers etc. then you fall into the music industry division.
So these people aren’t involved in entering the sweepstakes.
Oh, no no no.
A key component of successfully selling events like these is not only ensuring the environment is appealing, but that people are attracted to what you are presenting. Also, whenever times are harsh—politically or economically, whatever it is—people still want to go somewhere, and enjoy themselves.
Because it’s an escape. I would want to win this. I would want to do this. I am at a point in my life, and in my career that I love music. It is my uber, uber passion in life. I love food. I love to cook. I love wine. I love the finer things in life, like a lot of people. But also I am at the other end of my career where I just turned 50. The big 5-0, and I really want to experience these amazing things, but I really don’t want to be with 30,000 of my closest friends. I would like to be in a very intimate setting, whether it’s in Yountville or in Napa at a winery or in a field or in a barn or be with an artist performing completely acoustic with a winemaker talking about the wine, and a chef preparing bites. That’s sexy. That’s amazing. I love that. It makes me happy.
The first year there were 4 artists, 16 radio stations. The second year, there were 10 artists, 50 radio stations, and 20 wineries involved. Today…..
Flashing forward, we are at about over 500 artists that have performed, that were promoted over 350 radio stations nationwide, and we have over 200 winery partners. So that’s 11 years later. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears let me tell you.
After the second year, Live In The Vineyard just exploded. You two landed a partnership with Starwood Hotels to help launch their Aloft brand which led to sponsorship support from Enterprise, Southwest, Beringer, Sutter Home, and other sponsors. Many of these also came from cold calls asking brands to be involved.
In attracting artists, both you and Claire had significant contacts in the music industry in Los Angeles, and there’s always word of mouth support amongst artists about a great event.
Brand executives aren’t as easily impressed.
Everything about the whole evolution of…Look Live In The Vineyard is definitely not a traditional model. Big, big, big brands want to be in front of thousands, and thousands of people. Or there are brands that want to have exclusivity, and want to have content, want to have up-close, and personal experiences, and want to have the (wine country) backdrop, and want to entertain clients. There are all these different things that go into what we do. We are definitely not a traditional model at all from a “festival” perspective. It’s not a festival. It is an experiential, beautiful 4-day weekend in Napa where artists are happy. They perform at the highest level because of the musical industry influencers on every level that is there. The winners are happy because they are getting a once in a lifetime trip. The sponsors are happy because they are representing themselves next to real amazing A-list artists or artists to break, that are like the next big artists. Really everything about the event is about curation. It’s about the best to come, but experiencing it in Napa Valley with only a few hundred people.
Southwest Airlines and iHeartMedia have been tremendous partners for Live In The Vineyard.
iHeart, yep. Well before that, it was Jacor Communications (which was purchased by Clear Channel Communications, now iHeartMedia in 1998). So iHeart, and Entercom, we work with. We really work with all… Cumulus, Town Square Media. There’s nobody (in broadcast media) that we really don’t work with.
What struck me in the videos I saw of Live In The Vineyard is how close attendees are to the artists.
It is really truly up-close and personal. It couldn’t really get more personal, and up-close than what we deliver. And the artists are engaging, and they want to be there. They want to talk about their currents projects, and they are really current (artists). They are present. And the crowd is very, very passionate. It is full of people jumping up and down, and who are excited to be there. We kind of call it (the ticket sweepstakes and giveaways) Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. It is the way that we explain it to people.
(A Golden Ticket is the pass that allows the owner to get into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in the 1964 novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl. The Golden Tickets were made by Willy Wonka, hidden in five Wonka Bars, and found by five lucky children. “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, is a 1971 musical fantasy family film. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a 2005 musical fantasy film starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka which was also based on the Dahl novel).
How many venues do you utilize for Live In The Vineyard?
We have I believe something like 30 different venues.
Are different events and performances going on simultaneously?
We have everybody on a very specific track. Everybody has a specific itinerary based on just headcount. We bus people everywhere to events.
How much staff do you operate with off season, and nearer to an event?
Our staff off season is probably 10 to 15, and during the event, if you include catering, and things like that, it’s 50 plus people per event now. The week of the event is when everything is all hands on deck; with all of our activations, and all of our staff—with the sound engineers, and staging, and the lighting, the venues, and the catering. The week of the event is really when we are in in full force.
In booking talent are you dealing with booking agents or, with your significant history in the music industry, are you going direct to managers?
I deal mostly with management. I do deal with agents who have come to realize that “Wait a minute, Bobbii helped break our artist, and she gives them a bigger platform, and she put our artist in front of more people in putting music supervisors and programmers in the room, and she gets them (opportunities for) some syncs, for TV and film licensing. So Live In The Vineyard can help our artists and make them more valuable on another level.” Once they sort of figure that out….
Managers usually deal with their artists on a daily 24/7 basis. They know more the changing moods and temperaments of their clients. An agent is off-site, and may be focused more on trying to garner the biggest fee for the manager, and the artist.
I get along very well with managers. Agents, I deal with them, but I don’t personally know many of them. I know a handful of agents. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to dinner with an agent. I’ve gone to dinner with a manager. I don’t really know agents I really don’t. I know their names but I don’t know them.
The Napa Valley is an intimate and a very personalized backdrop setting. Any troublesome artists over the years spoiling the vibe?
(Laughing) No comment.
Does it take a certain type of artist to take advantage of the Live In The Vineyard concept?
Yes, it does. It’s kind of one of those guts on the table sort of things that when you come in as artist you need to be able to perform acoustic or really stripped down. You can’t be unable to sing. You can’t hide behind production.
Artists need also to be willing to meet new people and shake hands.
You really do have to have a special temperament, and a special dynamic as far as performing in an acoustic setting, but also being able to network. To talk to people. In today’s society, everything is social. Social media, and on email. With Live In The Vineyard, when artists come in, we are giving them not just a platform to perform, and to get out there; to be discovered or to solidify their success with what they are doing; but also giving them the opportunity to network with all of these other artists, and with these (entertainment and broadcasting) executives, and the sponsors. All of these people and kind of getting back to basics, and having relationships. So they (the relationships) are truly real and are just not only on email. I’m a real big advocate of that.
To realize that Live In The Vineyard is just not about filling a date on a tour schedule.
A lot of times the artists don’t necessarily know much about the event. They may look at their dates, “I am playing Sacramento”—or Oakland or San Francisco and they might see Live In The Vineyard, and go, “Well that’s what I’m doing, and then I’m flying straight out.” I’ve met artists backstage before they go on, and they have absolutely no idea why they are there. I pull them aside, and tell them (about the event). Once it dawns on them about where they are, and what they are doing, and who is in the audience, then they don’t want to leave. They are like, “I’m going to miss my flight tomorrow.” I tell them, “Well you can’t really do that because then there’d be a problem.
Where do people fly into?
Sacramento is the best airport to fly into. It is the closest airport to Napa Valley. It is 50 miles away. It’s under an hour drive So It’s very quick.
You concede you have done some hand-holding of talent over the years?
That is kind of an understatement, but yes. Well, from an attitude (perspective) I have kind of sorted through most of those people. Sometimes, they creep in. I don’t know what they are like until I look them in the eye, and I think, “Oh, boy. Here we go.”
Given your music trade background, and your passion for music, I can’t imagine anyone curating your events other than you.
(Laughing) I don’t know. It’s a lot of work, but I love what I do.
Now that you are 50 you aren’t quite at the forefront of discovering new artists or new music. Do you get input from your staff or even your children?
A lot of people, they now find me, but Live In The Vineyard was created to help artists create another marketing opportunity.
It was, and is, also about being able to showcase new artists.
So for me, it’s about truly laying out all of the musicians, figuring out what are the trends, who goes together well. Do I have a theme naturally; do I not have a theme? Really, I lay it out. For example, two years ago, Danny Buch and David Nathan called me and said, “Hey, we have a Fergie record coming out.” They wanted to discuss Fergie playing LITV. I said, “Okay send it to me.” Well, the name of the album was “Double Duchess” (released September 22nd, 2017). It referenced castles, and medieval times as far as the theme. We thought how cool it would be to have Fergie kick off the event, and perform in a castle. So I called them back, and I said, “We are going to put Fergie in a castle. How appropriate is it for the Duchess to be in a castle?” So we booked Castello di Amorosa, and Fergie opened the event up there (near the town of Calistoga). It was right after the fires of Napa. So we did a huge fundraiser. We raised, I believe, over $100,000 for the Napa fires at that time.
(Castello di Amorosa, a 13th-century Italian Tuscan castle and winery located on 171 acres just minutes south of the Napa Valley town of Calistoga, opened in 2007).
Your earlier career experience in Los Angeles working at radio tip sheets and labels largely consisted of picking hits out of the box.
I just love being in the thick of it. Being a part of breaking music. I love it. I love being asked my opinion on things. With music, and other things. With music, I loved being part of that inner circle of breaking artists. I always liked the more obscure artists. Not the big, big artists. But there would be these up and coming artists. Like Michelle Branch. I absolutely love her.
Do you have good ears?
I think so. I wouldn’t be doing the curation of Live In The Vineyard with all of these artists if I didn’t. I think I’m pretty good. I think I’m pretty good at it. Not great, maybe, I’m always wanting to improve.
Within the radio tip sheet and label world it didn’t matter if the record was good or bad. It was about whether it was a hit or not. Could you pick hits?
Yes, I like to think that I pick hits. Nobody is 100% accurate, but I really do feel that I have a really good ear to pick a hit. But the sun, moon and the stars also have to be aligned at the same time.
What act have you come across early in their careers that you just knew would break big?
Something that hit me between the eyes the first time I heard it was Mike Easterlin sending me music from Fun. This was really before many people even knew who they were. He sent me this song, and asked me to listen to it, and to tell him what I thought. I heard it, and I went, “That is an absolute and complete smash. Unbelievable.” Like American Authors, whenever I hear their music, I think it kind of hits you between the eyes. I love that pop sound, that acoustic guitar. I just love that sound. I would say that something that just popped into my head right off the bat is Fun. Mike sent me that song, “Some Nights.” (released on June 4, 2012, as the second single from Fun’s 2nd studio album of the same name). I heard it, immediately, and I said, “That is going to be a Top 10 record.”
(“Some Nights” spent approximately 7 months on the Billboard Hot 100 before reaching a peak of #3 for 6 non-consecutive weeks beginning the week of September 29, 2012.)
Years ago manager Bill Silva told me a wonderful story about being in a cab in Stockholm in 2008 with three drunken local kids at 4 A.M who started singing Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours,” which had not yet been released as a single. They also sang his older songs “Remedy,” and “You and I Both.” Bill asked how they knew the songs, and they told him it was through Limewire. The next day at the Peace & Love Festival in Borlänge kids began singing “I’m Yours” during soundcheck. When Jason began his set, much of the festival audience congregated in front of his stage. They sang along to his songs, and when he broke into “I’m Yours” as the last song, Bill said it was as if it was the national anthem was being played
Oh wow. I love Jason Mraz. “I’m Yours” is what started Live In The Vineyard.
I love the tagline used for the first event, A Girlfriend’s Getaway To Napa.
Exactly. It sounds fantastic.
This was going to be a one-off.
You did that event with Claire Parr?
Yes. Claire and I were business partners. We are not anymore, but she and I co-founded Live In The Vineyard.
When did you two separate?
Three years ago.
For that first event, you were able to land Jason Mraz who was mega-hot.
Oh my God yes because of Bill Silva, Mike Easterlin, and Jason Mraz. “I’m Yours” was out at that time. We went to Bill, and Mike and said, “We would like Jason Mraz,” and they said “Absolutely, but he only has one day available.” And that was July 28th of 2008. So everything was unique about that day because Jason had to catch a flight to Japan. He headlined, but he went first. There were three other artists on the first event. Matt Nathanson, who is now a dear friend; Tristan Prettyman; and Dave Barnes who is also a friend of the LITV family. At the time, there wasn’t a name for the company. It was a Girlfriend’s Getaway. It was during a bad economy. But lo and behold, Jason Mraz walked onstage with a #1 record.
Still, this event was going to be a one-off.
Yeh, it was a one-off, and because it was created as a radio promotion, we wanted to build awareness of the artists and their current projects. So it was a radio promotion, and it was really successful. And afterward artists wanted to be able to get in front of more people, and really, really promote their new current projects.
The germ of the idea for Live In The Vineyard came from a dinner at a winery with your husband and friends. You had won a school auction, and afterward you called Claire raving about the experience, but disappointed that music hadn’t been part of the night.
Yes. At the very beginning, I knew one person. Steve Gage who then worked at Miner Family Vineyards
Steve is legendary in Napa Valley for building the retail operations and direct-to-consumer related businesses for Miner Family Vineyards over a 14-year period, and later at Mi Sueño Winery, and more recently Moone-Tsai Vineyards.
I went to Napa for a tasting with my husband, and I called Steve, and he said he remembered me. I was like, “I’m going to do an event in Napa with music, food and wine, and I want you to be part of it.” He said, “Well, that’s amazing. Let me talk to the owner of the winery, Dave Miner. Steve came back, and said, “Dave would like to be part of this. What are you going to do?” I said, “I have absolutely no idea.” Then I said, “Do you know anybody I could talk to in regards to a hotel?” I don’t know where to stay.” He said he knew someone who worked at the Silverado Resort in Napa, and his name is Jerry Brown. So I went up to Napa, and did a site visit, and met with Jerry. Lo and behold, the event happened. It was a small, tiny event at the time. Then the Miner people did this really cool thing. They called their friends, and those friends called their friends. Next thing I know all these people started calling me back and giving me attention. I really was very careful in promising anything because I really didn’t really know what exactly we were doing.
The success led to you and Claire being asked to reprise the event for Sarah McLachlan and newcomer Colbie Caillat. When you started were the Napa townsfolk apprehensive about you two launching an annual event on their doorstep?
Well, it was so small. We flew under the radar. It wasn’t like we were in the streets. It was a tiny little event where people would come in. All of the events were at the Silverado Resort for the first four years. We’d do our thing, and have a couple of wineries. and that was it. Then it moved to the Uptown Theater and the Westin in downtown Napa. We would love to do an event back at the Silverado again. We love it there.
Also Live In The Vineyard was defined from the start by acoustic music which would hardly rankle city officials or townsfolk.
It was acoustic. We never had to deal with (issues due to loud music), and we were only a couple of hundred people. We stood behind what we were doing We really tried to promote the wineries. Meaning if we were going to get involved with a winery we wanted them to sell wine. We wanted them to market their wine. If we were going to be at a hotel, we wanted to be able to sell out the hotel. We worked the music. We wanted everybody to benefit. We wanted the artists to benefit from being a part of Live In The Vineyard.
All of those are still clearly goals today.
I always say that with all the kingdoms in my world that it is just not one kingdom that I need to please. It is just not one person. Or one group of people. There’s the sponsors, the radio stations, the programmers, the supervisors, the artists, the label executives, the licensors, the wineries, the hotels, the winners and so on. It is literally everyone that needs to walk away with having a great experience. We need to curate and program the best, most unbelievable experience every single time because then we can keep it (the event) going because I want everyone to win. I really want everybody to walk away with the great experience ever.
Ever had rain? David Britz, president of WORKS Entertainment, told me about Brian Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway being rained out on its final day in June 2017.
I’m aware of that. I had to go through that with Yountville. We had rain, rain, rain three years ago. We have never been rained out, but we have had to be very creative in our rain plan. When you are dealing with Mother Nature, you have to roll the dice sometimes and do a lot of praying, and do a lot of hoping, and keeping your fingers crossed. That is just kind of what it is. You really need to think about all of the issues that Mother Nature can bring upon you. We’ve gone through earthquakes, mudslides, fires. We’ve gone through everything, except for locust.
The 2017 wildfires (Oct. 8th-31st) were so close to Napa that air quality there reached the hazardous level, the most dangerous on the Environmental Protection Agency scale.
We were literally burned all the way to the doorstep of our winery partners. A lot of them. Oh, it was bad. It was really bad. Right when everything was on fire, my phone was ringing off the hook. “We’re not coming” or “Napa has burned down to the ground.” I was like, “No. no no, it didn’t burn down to the ground. They need us more than ever. We have to come. They need us.” So we were the first people to Napa, and it was intense. Oh, it was crazy. We met first responders, and we had fund-raising, and everyone was crying the whole time. It was crazy. It was something else
(The 2017 Northern California wildfires, also known as the Wine Country Fires, were a series of 250 wildfires that started burning across the state of California in early October 2017. Twenty-one became major fires that burned at least 245,000 acres. The wildfires broke out throughout Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano Counties during severe fire weather conditions, effectively leading to a major red flag warning for much of the Northern California area.)
You are from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
I am. I grew up in the middle of nowhere.
Thirty-five miles from the nearest school?
Both your father and grandfather were entrepreneurs. How so?
They had a paper products company in Cedar Rapids which was the family business for about 85 years called Hach Brothers. My grandfather (William C. Hach) and his brother (Edward E. Hach) started it. The company was passed to my father, Robert Hach. He ended up selling it, and retiring in the late ‘80s. Then shortly afterwards he passed away. But the business was in the family for 85 years.
(Founded in 1919, the National Quality Products Company changed its name to the Hach Brothers Company in 1925. It advertised its products as wrapping paper, bags, cordage, woodenware, galvanized ware, bottlers’ supplies, sundries, and wholesale malt products. In 1930, Hach Brothers became the wholesale jobber for Union Made Miller High Life Beer. It held the distributorship for 38 years, selling it in 1968.)
You have talked about visiting clients with your father when you were four or five.
I went on sales calls with him. I was a little girl. I remember he would put me in his car, and we would call on small businesses, high schools, and large corporations. I remember sitting in the car with him, and him talking to me about sales, about pitching, about clients, and about the importance of listening, and asking the customer what they want. Then I would go into these meetings. I didn’t say anything. I just sat there, and smiled, and I was very quiet. But I took it all in. It is really interesting how what you pick up as a kid, and really what you want to learn, that you take with you or, maybe, you decide to do differently.
With a population of fewer than 130,000 people, Cedar Rapids is still quite small today.
You must have gone to events at the 6-story Paramount Theatre, which opened in 1928 and is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
I did. I did. I did an event at the Paramount Theatre, and I went to shows there. My dad was a Shriner, and he was in the Shrine Band. The polka band. He’s Czech, and my mother’s maiden name is Broulik. So I grew up with that whole (Czech) background.
Polka is as all-American as it gets.
Exactly. And I remember those sales calls with my dad the 8-tracks and all of the music that he would play. It was definitely not pop music I can tell you that for sure.
You have a degree in communications from the University of Iowa. Were you seeking to have a broadcast or journalism career?
I did writing. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do because I just wanted to start working. I did internships in college. I interned for Columbia Records out of Minneapolis.
You did work for AT&T.
I worked for A&T in college, yes. I knew that I wanted to do something as far as with promotions, sales, and marketing but I just wasn’t sure.
Also, you interned for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Make-A-Wish basically paid my way into the music business. I was interning for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and there were some little girls that had leukemia that wanted to meet New Kids on the Block. I figured out a way to get New Kids on the Block to do a meet and greet with the press, and the television station in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Then I got an internship out of it with Columbia Records in Minneapolis. That is kind of how I got into the business.
After graduation, you went to Los Angeles seeking work despite knowing nobody.
Did you take a Greyhound bus from Cedar Rapids to Los Angeles?
No. I went there on a business trip with my dad. He told me he would pay for me to go to L.A. if I worked a convention for him. So I worked the convention for him which was in downtown Los Angeles which was not, at the time, a place to go, but now it is. He then said, “I will give you a couple of days, and I will drive you to your (job) interviews. So I set up interviews and he drove me around. Then I got a job as a baby sitter job.
How did that come about?
I met a man during a job interview at Disney. He looked at my resume, and he needed a babysitter when he and his wife went away to Toy Fair (The Toy Industry Association’s annual Toy Fair in New York City). So he checked my references in his office on his rotary dial phone, called his wife, and then he offered me the job. I flew home back to Iowa before I moved there. He flew me back out to L.A., and I lived with his family while they went away for two weeks. I watched the kids. Then when they came back from Toy Fair, they sat me down and said, “We want to offer you an opportunity of a lifetime. We are going to offer you a free place to stay for three months while you get your feet off the ground, get a job, and get settled. The only thing we want you to do is to watch our kids once a week on a Saturday night.”
You soon begin to work at Hitmakers which Barry Fiedel founded in Canoga Park, California in 1982, and ran to 2004. Barry also founded such other music industry trades as The Confidential Report, The Album Network, and Feedback.
I did do a lot of writing (for Hitmakers). Oh my gosh. I remember those days. Barry Fiedel They gave me my first shot. I will never forget when I first got my job there. Bob Greenberg, who was a partners with Barry Fiedel, interviewed me. I walked in and I had a suit on. I interviewed in a suit. He looked at me. and he said, “What do you have on?” I said, “I have a suit on, sir.” He said, “In the music business we don’t wear suits.”
Just 21, and a little wet behind the ears.
Yes. Then he interviewed me, and he said, “You seem to have a great personality. Everybody recommended that we talk to you. You have already interned for Columbia Records. Do you want the job?” I said, “Yes sir, I absolutely want the job.” He said, “Can you talk to people on the phone?” I said, “Yes, I can talk to people on the phone.” He said, “Great. We are going to have you start calling radio stations.” And that’s how it all started. Then I did all of the advertising for the magazine. I helped them put together the ads. Doing the layout, and the quotes, the chart, and The Discovery Club.
This was during the fading days of radio tips sheets which had also included The Gavin Report, The Hamilton Report, Friday Morning Quarterback, Friday Morning Quarterback Album Report, Radio & Records, Pop Music Survey, and HITS. Lanny West was the GM at Hitmakers around the time you arrived I think. I believe he was there for nearly a year (Sept. 1990 to July 1991). Today, he’s CEO at Tipping Point Entertainment Group in Nashville.
Full circle. Lanny West was walking out of the building with his desk in a box as I was walking into the building. Now years later his wife, Leslie Fram (senior VP of Music Strategy for CMT, overseeing all music integration within its brand), and I really close friends. We work closely together now because CMT is our partner, our titled sponsor, for Live In The Vineyard Goes Country.
A full circle in your career.
It’s amazing when a full circle happens. When everything comes together when you look at your career and say, “Wow.” Leslie Fram is one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met in my life. An amazing person.
In 1994 you convinced Jason Flom to hire you as he was preparing to launch Lava Record in partnership with Atlantic Records. He flew you to New York City to interview to be head of label’s West Coast National Promotion department despite you having no promotion experience, and with other contenders being more qualified. I heard you told him, you told him, “I will kill for you.”
(Laughing) I didn’t say “kill.” I said, “You need to hire me. I don’t even have a plan. I don’t have a dog. I don’t have a significant other or a boyfriend. I am the person for the job. I will do whatever it takes. I will be on the road for you as your road warrior. You need to hire me.” And lo and behold, I got my first label job at Lava Records in its heyday.
What were the first acts you were handed to work?
The first artist that I worked with Jason was Jill Sobule, then Edwin McCain, and a little band called Matchbox 20.
In 1996, you created your own marketing and promotions company, Leverage MPC. Over the next three years you worked on the New York Times Concert Series, and created events for Coors, The Hard Rock Cafe, Embassy Suites, and worked on he Mötley Crüe Reunion tour.
In 1999, you returned to the radio tip sheet world as Head of Adult Radio Formats, and Broadcast Editor at Lenny Beer’s HITS magazine.
(Laughing) Yeah, I went to HITS. I couldn’t stay away from the music business. I tried to break away.
(In 2005, to further expand her entertainment activities Hach Jacobs created BSG Entertainment, integrating entertainment, corporate promotions and marketing.)
After this year’s Live In The Vineyard event closes down when do you and your team start preparations for the next run of Napa wine, food and music events?
I’m already working on Yountville Live. As we speak, I’m putting the line-up together and the chefs, and the master classes. I am also working on Live In The Vineyard Goes Country with Leslie Fram right now.
In working with 150 winery partners, you must have a taste for the grape.
I really love wine, but I try not to drink during the week.
Your wine cellar must be quite spectacular
I’ve got a lot of wine in my wine cellar. I really love supporting other winery partners so I buy a lot of wine. I don’t think I or my husband or my friends are going to be able to drink all of the wines ever in our lifetime, but we are going to enjoy what I have for sure.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-80. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record.
He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is a co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide,” and a Lifetime Member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry.