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Anything for a Hit: An A Woman's Story of Surviving the Music Industry

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Dorothy Carvello knows all about the music biz. She was the first female A&R executive at Atlantic Records, and one of the few in the room at RCA and Columbia. But before that, she was secretary to Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic’s infamous president, who signed acts like Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin, negotiated distribution deals with Mick Jagger, and added Neil Young to Cros Dorothy Carvello knows all about the music biz. She was the first female A&R executive at Atlantic Records, and one of the few in the room at RCA and Columbia. But before that, she was secretary to Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic’s infamous president, who signed acts like Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin, negotiated distribution deals with Mick Jagger, and added Neil Young to Crosby, Stills & Nash. The stories she tells about the kingmakers of the music industry are outrageous, but it is her sinuous friendship with Ahmet that frames her narrative. He was notoriously abusive, sexually harassing Dorothy on a daily basis. Still, when he neared his end, sad and alone, Dorothy had no hatred toward him—only a strange kind of loyalty. Carvello reveals here how she flipped the script and showed Ertegun and every other man who tried to control her that a woman can be just as willing to do what it takes to get a hit. Featuring never-before-heard stories about artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Steven Tyler, Bon Jovi, INXS, Marc Anthony, Phil Collins, and many more, this book is a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered what it's really like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry.


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Dorothy Carvello knows all about the music biz. She was the first female A&R executive at Atlantic Records, and one of the few in the room at RCA and Columbia. But before that, she was secretary to Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic’s infamous president, who signed acts like Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin, negotiated distribution deals with Mick Jagger, and added Neil Young to Cros Dorothy Carvello knows all about the music biz. She was the first female A&R executive at Atlantic Records, and one of the few in the room at RCA and Columbia. But before that, she was secretary to Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic’s infamous president, who signed acts like Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin, negotiated distribution deals with Mick Jagger, and added Neil Young to Crosby, Stills & Nash. The stories she tells about the kingmakers of the music industry are outrageous, but it is her sinuous friendship with Ahmet that frames her narrative. He was notoriously abusive, sexually harassing Dorothy on a daily basis. Still, when he neared his end, sad and alone, Dorothy had no hatred toward him—only a strange kind of loyalty. Carvello reveals here how she flipped the script and showed Ertegun and every other man who tried to control her that a woman can be just as willing to do what it takes to get a hit. Featuring never-before-heard stories about artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Steven Tyler, Bon Jovi, INXS, Marc Anthony, Phil Collins, and many more, this book is a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered what it's really like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry.

30 review for Anything for a Hit: An A Woman's Story of Surviving the Music Industry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lynx

    Dorothy had a life-long dream of working in the music industry and when the opportunity arose to work for Atlantic Records President Ahmet Ertegun, she jumped at the chance. Almost immediately though she would discover this was no regular workplace. As Dorothy put it “If personnel had actually enforced the rules, everyone in the building would have been fired by lunch.” Dorothy’s dream job came with amazing highs and very low lows. Sexual harassment and rampant drug use were all common daily occu Dorothy had a life-long dream of working in the music industry and when the opportunity arose to work for Atlantic Records President Ahmet Ertegun, she jumped at the chance. Almost immediately though she would discover this was no regular workplace. As Dorothy put it “If personnel had actually enforced the rules, everyone in the building would have been fired by lunch.” Dorothy’s dream job came with amazing highs and very low lows. Sexual harassment and rampant drug use were all common daily occurrences and Dorothy battled constant misogyny with every step. Nevertheless she excelled, working her way up from Ahmet’s secretary to Atlantic Records first female A&R Executive. Dorothy loved going to live shows and the thrill of discovering and nurturing untapped talent but the constant abuse, both mental and physical from her male co-workers certainly took it’s toll. Dorothy would fight back and to this day continues to do so. This is an incredibly powerful read. You'll be laughing one moment and absolutely furious with rage the next. I had the great privilege of speaking with Dorothy on my podcast about her career, the unique friendship her and Amhet had until his passing and why it's so important for women to tell their stories and support each other. You can listen by looking up Muses and Stuff on iTunes or click here.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Smith

    If you're at all curious about why #MeToo hasn't had a major effect on the music industry, just read Carvello's book and note how many of the toxic men she mentions in it are still in high ranking jobs in music -- or their mentees, or their cronies. Hard to change a system that's so completely stacked against you. If you're at all curious about why #MeToo hasn't had a major effect on the music industry, just read Carvello's book and note how many of the toxic men she mentions in it are still in high ranking jobs in music -- or their mentees, or their cronies. Hard to change a system that's so completely stacked against you.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mona

    As a forever music fan, I too always dreamed of working at something I was sure I would love. I always believed if you do something you are passionate about, it won’t seem like work. But it never came to be. Reading Bebe’s account, I’m no longer sure I was cut out for that sort of abuse and misogyny. And as a few reviewers have pointed out, most of these a-holes are still at the top of major music and media corporations so obviously bad behaviour is rewarded when you’re a man. I found this a very As a forever music fan, I too always dreamed of working at something I was sure I would love. I always believed if you do something you are passionate about, it won’t seem like work. But it never came to be. Reading Bebe’s account, I’m no longer sure I was cut out for that sort of abuse and misogyny. And as a few reviewers have pointed out, most of these a-holes are still at the top of major music and media corporations so obviously bad behaviour is rewarded when you’re a man. I found this a very easy and enjoyable read, like a tête-à-tête with a close friend. I heard they were developing an HBO miniseries out of it so I look forward to that too. Curious to know how she or her publisher’s lawyers cleared the naming of all the players here, glad there were names and not initials or fake names. I kept pausing my read to look up each of these characters on Google to get a look at their face, or their spouse’s face, etc. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of all of them as there were dozens. Also since this is told from her perspective, though I do give her credit for some self-awareness and introspection, it paints her almost completely as the victim. In every circumstance. So I would push back on that a tad if I could. Plus she was never an A&R ‘executive’ which she self-describes a dozen or more times. She was a rep. That sort of self-aggrandizement was a bit irritating. Same with her one-night stand with Michael Hutchence: this would hardly qualify as a close friend or meaningful relationship, which she tries to do in her wrap-up. I also didn’t grasp the reason she stayed that long with her husband, there are several scenes where she is visiting him at his office and it read as if they were still married at that time so I was trying to follow the timeline and logistics which I found a bit distracting. Why wouldn’t you chat with your husband at home? Finally, I found it either disingenuous or neglectful of her to omit any mention of AIDS and the intense fear of exposure to it amidst the sexual proclivities of these decades. People were hooking up like rabbits, got it, but there was a time even among the rich and famous when AIDS was a threat. But that is nitpicking as I did enjoy this; I read it in two sittings and got mostly what I came for. I wish her happiness and I thank her for sharing her story, embellished and one-sided as it may be in some instances.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Thomas

    It was my dream to work in the music industry as a young adult. I always had an ear for music and thought being an A&R executive would be the perfect job. This was in the late 80s/early 90s – around the same time Dorothy Carvello was beginning her career in the music business. She began her wild ride as the secretary for Ahmet Ertegun. Ertegun was the legendary president of Atlantic Records who signed the likes of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Aretha Franklin and created the Rock & Roll H It was my dream to work in the music industry as a young adult. I always had an ear for music and thought being an A&R executive would be the perfect job. This was in the late 80s/early 90s – around the same time Dorothy Carvello was beginning her career in the music business. She began her wild ride as the secretary for Ahmet Ertegun. Ertegun was the legendary president of Atlantic Records who signed the likes of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Aretha Franklin and created the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. This began a decades-long relationship with the man who would be her mentor, confidant, and tormentor. To say it was complicated would be an understatement. Her desire to move up the ranks led to the discovery of Skid Row. While she did not get credit for signing the band, it did allow her to become the first female A&R executive for Atlantic Records. Anything For A Hit takes the reader inside the offices of the biggest record labels and provides a jaw dropping look at what really happens behind closed (and sometimes open) doors. The book describes many of the underhanded tactics executives would take at the expense of others. Carvello gives a honest account about her childhood growing up in Brooklyn, her alliances and adversaries in the workplace, loves and heartbreaks, and lessons learned. Additionally, the book provides interesting narratives about members of Bon Jovi, Skid Row, The Rolling Stones, and INXS. My path did not lead to a job at a record label. I worked full-time at an insurance company and as a freelance music journalist. I’m not sure I would last in Dorothy’s position for more reasons than one. I am thankful she made it out fairly unscathed and can be happy doing what she loves without the toxic environment. Carvello penned this memoir prior to the #MeToo movement, but it opens up a conversation in an industry that’s been widely overlooked. She does acknowledge the music business has gotten better with the treatment of women and men who being harassed but could use some work. Anything For A Hit is a must-have if you are interested in the music business, climate in the workplace, or enjoy the unfiltered truth with a splash or humor.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    I moved to Las Vegas to do radio in late 1998 - right during the period of max profits for the record industry and immediately before the arrival of Napster and the industry's downfall. Vegas of course was a fav party stop for the West (and East) Coast record execs and we saw what unlimited expense accounts could do for a party for those of us in radio. It was fun and matched the tone of what Carvello describes here but everything was horribly old school and misogynistic. I remember all of us ta I moved to Las Vegas to do radio in late 1998 - right during the period of max profits for the record industry and immediately before the arrival of Napster and the industry's downfall. Vegas of course was a fav party stop for the West (and East) Coast record execs and we saw what unlimited expense accounts could do for a party for those of us in radio. It was fun and matched the tone of what Carvello describes here but everything was horribly old school and misogynistic. I remember all of us talking about the way the industry would have to adjust to the online era but nobody seemed capable of transforming the record business. This book sheds some light on the mentality from that side of things, but more importantly shows how that mentality was built around an abusive patriarchy that naturally included unbridled greed and objectification of women. And yeah it sucks to read about that part of the music biz when you're as big of a music fan as I am and when my own career has indirectly revolved around the record industry. Yet every business has undoubtedly had some version of this story and it's amazing that women like Dorothy Carvello are finally finding the strength to tell it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    It’s juicy and gossipy and blunt. It’s 200 pages so I drank it up in one sitting. I’m listening to “And Party Every Day,” the history of Casablanca Records (which is also written in a decidedly un-literary way) and, factoring in my recent re-read of “Hit Men,” I feel like I’m gaining more knowledge of the late 20th century music industry than anything I was literally taught in the late 90s. This book really underscores my disillusionment. It’s truly fascinating the ways I listen to music now: it It’s juicy and gossipy and blunt. It’s 200 pages so I drank it up in one sitting. I’m listening to “And Party Every Day,” the history of Casablanca Records (which is also written in a decidedly un-literary way) and, factoring in my recent re-read of “Hit Men,” I feel like I’m gaining more knowledge of the late 20th century music industry than anything I was literally taught in the late 90s. This book really underscores my disillusionment. It’s truly fascinating the ways I listen to music now: it’s entirely a direct comparison to what was happening in the industry at the time—the business of making hits—with what I recall, my experience of “organically” discovering the music back then. And the ongoing realization that while art is subjective, business is business. It’s like hearing it all with entirely different ears now—add on top of it a seeming newfound sensitivity to the layers, instruments, in the tracks I hadn’t heard ever before, AND the ease of discoverability (I listened to full 17 minute version of “Love to Love You Baby” for the first time yesterday)—and I’m really enjoying it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    As soon as I saw the title of the book and read the blurb, this memoir was an instant buy for me. I’m a die-hard fan of women in the music industry. It doesn’t matter if the woman is a rocker, a rocker’s wife/girlfriend, a manager, a groupie, or as Dorothy soon became, an A&R rep. First, I liked how the book opened and closed. Very appropriate. A sound beginning and a just as sound ending. As for the meat of the story, it was pretty savoury and juicy. She doesn’t hold back and lays it all out for As soon as I saw the title of the book and read the blurb, this memoir was an instant buy for me. I’m a die-hard fan of women in the music industry. It doesn’t matter if the woman is a rocker, a rocker’s wife/girlfriend, a manager, a groupie, or as Dorothy soon became, an A&R rep. First, I liked how the book opened and closed. Very appropriate. A sound beginning and a just as sound ending. As for the meat of the story, it was pretty savoury and juicy. She doesn’t hold back and lays it all out for the world to see. She has a great voice that made me think of someone telling you the story over of a cup of tea while sitting across from each other. She isn’t chatty. Her narrative takes you into her world and you view it through Dorothy’s eyes as you walk the halls of Atlantic Records, Geffen Records, Beverly Hills, Brooklyn, New York City, and every other place that Dorothy has been. Read more here: https://maggieblackbird.com/2019/12/0...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Mixed feeling about this. One can't help feeling empathic to Dorothy's experience but at the same time the reader can see some really dumb mistakes she made. Kudos to her for being so honest about those mistakes. It is not the best written book, her style is very paint by numbers, but perhaps this is exactly what is needed in this kind of book. Was I shocked or surprised by the stories; unfortunately not as I've seen some of it myself. I hope for Ms. Carvello's sake she has found some measure of Mixed feeling about this. One can't help feeling empathic to Dorothy's experience but at the same time the reader can see some really dumb mistakes she made. Kudos to her for being so honest about those mistakes. It is not the best written book, her style is very paint by numbers, but perhaps this is exactly what is needed in this kind of book. Was I shocked or surprised by the stories; unfortunately not as I've seen some of it myself. I hope for Ms. Carvello's sake she has found some measure of happiness and satisfaction in her life, she deserves it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Steve Coscia

    Very interesting look into the mid-1980s and 1990s era record industry machinations. Dorothy Cervello had talent in a male-dominated industry in which women were second class. She names names, describes disgusting behavior and shares first-hand experiences involving the rise of artists. Dorothy's twenty year tenure enabled her to see the real-time record industry demise with the inception of mp3 files and Napster. A worthwhile read. Very interesting look into the mid-1980s and 1990s era record industry machinations. Dorothy Cervello had talent in a male-dominated industry in which women were second class. She names names, describes disgusting behavior and shares first-hand experiences involving the rise of artists. Dorothy's twenty year tenure enabled her to see the real-time record industry demise with the inception of mp3 files and Napster. A worthwhile read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    A pre-Me Too telling from the first female A&R executive at Atlantic Records. The abuse she had to endure from so-called "titans" of the modern recording industry was horrendous. Her narrative is wonderfully gossipy and alarming, along with a fascinating explanation of the financial shenanigans that labels took to maximize profits at the expense of artists. Highly recommend if you're an audiophile of seventies and eighties music. A pre-Me Too telling from the first female A&R executive at Atlantic Records. The abuse she had to endure from so-called "titans" of the modern recording industry was horrendous. Her narrative is wonderfully gossipy and alarming, along with a fascinating explanation of the financial shenanigans that labels took to maximize profits at the expense of artists. Highly recommend if you're an audiophile of seventies and eighties music.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    Assault survivors are often called into question if they maintained any kind of personal or professional relationship with their attackers. (See: Bill Cosby.) Dorothy Carvello's relationship with Ahmet Ertegun illustrates exactly why this thinking is flawed. I reviewed Anything for a Hit for The Current. Assault survivors are often called into question if they maintained any kind of personal or professional relationship with their attackers. (See: Bill Cosby.) Dorothy Carvello's relationship with Ahmet Ertegun illustrates exactly why this thinking is flawed. I reviewed Anything for a Hit for The Current.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carla T

    Dorothy dealing with the boys club of the music mafia is terribly sad and writing this book probably helped her heal. I got lost with all the names. It seems as though the music business has lots of leaders and no followers; president of this label, vp of that department. The book is a quick read thankfully.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dave Mason

    Page turner if you are interested in what the music biz was like in the 80’s and 90’s, and what some of the icons on the business side - Ahmet Ertegun, Doug Morris, etc. - were/are really like (or purportedly really like). A tough time and place for a woman to build a career and she lays it out there in all its gory detail.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve Peifer

    If it happened today, she would sue the jerks and it would be a much different story. As it is, it is a pretty disgusting look at the depravity of the music business during the 60-80’s. You can’t blame her for not rising above it, but the picture of someone who sells their soul to try to make it in the music business is pretty depressing stuff. This was not an aspirational life.

  15. 5 out of 5

    beach horrorreader

    Unbelievable stories about the heyday of the music business and the men who ran it (into the ground). Also honest and heartfelt: the author got screwed but also did some screwing of her own and doesn’t sugarcoat it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Thoroughly enjoyable read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    Ugh. The music industry is gross. Having worked in it for 13 years, I’m relieved that none of this stuff has ever happened to me - but I can well believe it!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Blane

    Ms. Carvello is a survivor. I feel for that & the absurd amount of misogyny she had to put up with on a constant basis. This memoir was boring.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kara Peck

    An honest insider view into sexism and misogyny in the music production industry.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Very interesting.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Smiley

    Very interesting inside story into the Music Industry.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Theo Feng

    a quick read...Has the misogyny, greed and rudeness in the music industry lessened, due to the changes brought on by digitization and the internet?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey McLemore

    I'm glad I read this, but disappointed by where it went. Dorothy Carvello does a great job of sharing her story, but doesn't do much to use her story to inspire or teach. She's in a unique position to do so and she does talk more about this in person (I saw her speak at SXSW), but the way she encourages aspiring women in the music industry in person could have been better shared within the book. I'm glad I read this, but disappointed by where it went. Dorothy Carvello does a great job of sharing her story, but doesn't do much to use her story to inspire or teach. She's in a unique position to do so and she does talk more about this in person (I saw her speak at SXSW), but the way she encourages aspiring women in the music industry in person could have been better shared within the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gary Holtzman

  25. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Renny

  28. 4 out of 5

    Missy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian Morgan

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