What to do when you love music and can make things happen? While America has music maker shows like American Idol an L.A. entrepreneur is making music his own way. Bruce Quarto is not only financially backing a rock band, Heaven and Earth, he launched his own label, Quarto Valley Records.
The initial idea was to produce a new album for the 70’s British band Sweet. While fans may never tire of “Ballroom Blitz”, some in the current line-up of the band did. When they couldn’t come to agreement on adding fresh material Quarto backed Sweet guitarist Stuart Smith and revitalized his Heaven & Earth band.
Quarto, a self-made millionaire, is doing it the old-fashioned way. He’s producing songs, booking gigs, designing album covers, and taking his band on a European tour.
While Heaven & Earth doesn’t have the history of Sweet it does have veteran musicians and guest performances by big names like Richie Sambora, and Glenn Hughes.
Quarto says “I don’t think anyone who loves great music or great rock & roll will be disappointed. If anyone buys the album, and is not fully satisfied, I will personally refund their money.”
I talked with Quarto about launching a label in a modern day music world.
I sold my company in 2003 and retired. After several years of having fun and very little stress, I decided I wanted to do something new, something out of my comfort zone.
In 2007, I tried to get into the movie business. I met a lot of very cool people, including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jason Biggs, & Josh Hutcherson.
Then my good friend (Sweet guitarist) Stuart Smith came to me in March of 2011 and asked if I would be interested in producing a new Sweet album. (Singer) Joe Retta and Stuart were both with Sweet since 2008, but they were getting bored playing the same old songs that made the band famous. They both desperately wanted to write new material. The rest of the band didn’t feel the same, so when that idea didn’t materialize, Stuart offered up the notion of reforming his previous band Heaven & Earth. I always felt that was a great band that never really got the notoriety and success that they deserved.
• Describe Heaven & Earth?
Bluesy, Hard Rock. Maybe with a touch of Classic Rock, 70’s & 80’s style great rock and roll.
• What is it you love about “being with the band?”
My parents and grandparents always had music playing in the house. I became a teenager in the early 70’s when rock music, rock bands, and rock concerts were at their peak.
My older brother would bring home new vinyl every week when he got his paycheck. He had a fantastic stereo system and so we would sit in beanbags in the center of the room and listen to the music, marvel at the album covers, read every word of the liner notes and eagerly follow the lyrics. He also used to take me to concerts.
When we get in the studio to record or when we play live… there is nothing like the sound or the visuals of their live performance.
It was once said to me, “in my opinion, these guys should be in their twenties to sweep the globe. If they were, I can guarantee you that every manager and concert promoter in the world would be knocking on your door!”
My reply was: “Yeah, but if these guys were in there twenties, they wouldn’t sound this good and they definitely couldn’t play live better than they do on the album!”
• You even launched your own label, why?
Stuart shocked me by saying: “Well typically the label gets the lion’s share, say maybe 80% of the money and the band gets about 20% to share amongst themselves. I was appalled. I quickly calculated 20% divided by 5 equals a measly 4% to each band member.
I asked Stuart, what would it take to start my own record company and then give you guys the “lion’s share”. His reply: “A lot of money, a lot of patience, a lot of time and effort learning the business and creating the infrastructure, and then a whole lotta luck!”
I am pleased to say that Heaven & Earth has a lucrative deal that no other record company in the world would ever think of making!
• With shows like American Idol launching artists how do you compete as a start up label?
Obviously we can’t compete with shows like American Idol or The Voice. The songs are tunes that have already been written by others and loved for many years by the public. The contestants are merely adding their vocals over already established and beloved music. It’s genius really. By the time the winner gets the recording contract they already have millions of fans that are going to buy their album. Hence the record company usually cannot lose.
Now, bands like Heaven & Earth have to write and play catchy new songs to capture the fans and ultimately win that prize. But it’s what we do and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
• It’s been noted in print that you have taken on a tall order, working with a band of rockers more veteran than youth.
My basic thought was that everything in this world is cyclical. I told the guys that even though younger fans like my 19 yr old son, may have Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Blink 182 and Beyonce on their electronic musical devices, they also have the great blues and rock songs by Robert Johnson, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and so on.
• You made a serious investment into the art of the album cover. That seems to be a lost concept. What was your vision?
Glen Wexler, the premier album cover art guy, created that beautiful cover of the huge alien looking ancient Fender guitar being discovered and excavated from some undisclosed location in a dry riverbed. Whatever story one develops in their mind as they look at this stunning image, everyone has to admit; that cover is soooo cool!
• The reality of “being with the band” is a lot of hard work. Why ride this ride?
Nothing, especially in the music business in 2014 is as easy as first thought! The band has done what I asked of them. They created a phenomenal album and now I need to give them my full support.
I have not travelled abroad much so I am looking forward to being a sixth member of Heaven & Earth (European summer tour) and really experiencing what it’s like to “be with the band” and to finally become a Rock Star! ?