We’re somehow still learning things about Clive Davis after 90 years — over 55 spent at the top of the music industry. The latest? That the man is very particular about his meetings. For the music mogul’s 90th birthday, Variety interviewed a number of colleagues from Columbia Records, Arista Records, J Records, RCA Records, and Sony Music, where Davis works today as chief creative officer. Among the revelations is the chilling detail that Davis consistently keeps his meetings at “a crisp 55 degrees,” per Melinda Kelly, a former vice-president at Arista and J. “You always needed to bring a sweater or jacket,” she said. “I’m sure he thought it kept us alert, but it really just made us miserable and cold.” Other executives describe hours-long weekly “luncheon” meetings, complete with white-glove service, where staff discussed and played music. Larry Jackson, former A&R president at Arista, said Davis played music “so loudly that I’ve surely lost a few decibel levels of my hearing.”
That’s different from the A&R meetings, which Keith Naftaly, a senior VP of A&R at Arista and J under Davis, described as “lengthy and intense,” “serious and no nonsense,” and “sacred, secretive and often nerve-racking.” Those meetings could be called on five minutes’ notice and go for hours, per Pete Ganbarg, a former senior director of A&R at Arista and J. He called the meetings “the stuff of legend” and noted, “You could literally be there until midnight with no breaks.” Sure sounds like legend. A warning tale, that is.