Jam Productions co-founder Arny Granat is leaving the company he helped launch 46 years ago, preparing for the next chapter in his career as an independent impresario.
Granat has worked with thousands of artists, from the Rolling Stones and Prince to Adele and legendary singer Frank Sinatra, and won more than ten Tony Awards through his work at Jam Theatrical. Granat says he’s not planning to leave the music business, but is retiring from Jam and leaving the company in the hands of co-founder Jerry Mickelson. He tells Amplify that after turning 70 last year, he’s interested in pursuing new projects through his company Grand Slam Productions. That includes launching a traveling circus for tertiary markets with famed wire walker Nik Wallenda (and no live animals) and developing a Christmas lights show that would travel from London to Chicago. Granat is also developing a book around the story of a woman who disguised herself as a man in the 1800s and fought in the Civil War, and he’s finishing up his own memoir I Said This, But I Meant That.
“I’m getting a ridiculous amount of people calling me to work together, which is good,” said Granat, who officially announced his retirement last week in a press release. Amplify recently sat down with Granat to discuss his long career in music and hear about his plans for the future.
So after 46 years you’re branching out on your own. What happened, did you and Jerry have one last blowout?
No, not at all. It was more like Monty Hall from Let’s Make a Deal called and offered me door number three. Really it was just time for me to reevaluate. The world has changed and I have other things that I want to explore. I’m not going out of the music business. I’m still going to produce concerts and explore other avenues like exhibits and theater. I just bought the rights to adapt a book into a film.
What book did you option?
It’s called My Last Skirt (by author Lynda Durrant). I found this about 15 years ago and it’s so relevant today with the Me Too movement. It’s the story of Jennie Hodgers, a young girl from the 1800s who lived her life as a man because at a young age she saw how women were treated. She came to America from Ireland, fought in the Civil War and lived her entire life without anyone knowing until she was in a car accident and doctors discovered her secret.
Let’s talk about the music business. Jam has stayed famously independent while much of the concert promotion world has consolidated. In the last few years we’ve seen a new wave of buyouts that has left few independents in the business. Is there any hope left for indies?
Consolidation started a long time ago, and it’s a trend that’s not only in music but in all business. I was able to operate as a large independent and loved that I was able to grab the mantle and be part of the independent movement. But I’m at the age now that it takes a toll. I used to be six-foot-two but the constant pounding of life has me down to five-ten.
Four inches just totally gone like that?
I just want to go out and do the things that I enjoy doing and leaves my legacy complete. I still have scars from the battles I fought, but I feel very positive. I’ve had a great life. Jam was great. The people were great. That’ll be what I miss the most. My friends and family at Jam. It was a very difficult decision, but I felt that was the right thing for me to move into another unexplored facet of my life. I’m not disappearing and I’m not retiring. It’s just easier to go in the direction that the horse is already headed.
Part of your legacy is staying independent when Bob Sillerman began buying up promoters like Don Law and Pace Concerts. When was Jam first approached by Bob?
We were one of the first to be courted by the Sillerman group, right about the same time as Ron Delsner. For us, the offer on the table didn’t make sense and we were maybe a little stubborn and a little naive. Maybe we were smart, I don’t know, but we just felt it was not the right thing for us to do.
Do you have any regrets?
Looking back on it now, there are days I think it was the right thing to do. And there are days I think that it wasn’t the right thing to do for different reasons. But for right now when I do look back at the whole thing, in a complete view, I go, okay, you know what, we got a lot of plaudits for standing up for independents and I think Jerry and I, for that reason, made the right move. Financially, maybe we didn’t make the right move, but we survived, we made money, we were happy and we kept our credo, you know, brought to you with a little help from your friends at Jam. And I think the industry and the people in the industry look at us as a positive overall.
Do you think you would have made more money in the long-term if you had sold?
Perhaps, but only because of the money they were throwing out at that time. It wasn’t that you could make more money if you went along, but they were throwing out big sums and most people took it and I don’t blame them. Maybe for us it wasn’t the right thing. Would I have made more money? I really can’t answer that and besides, money isn’t the only thing that was important or is important. It was the quality of life and mindset, and our mindset was different then. I never really looked back except to say I know I can look in the mirror as an independent and go “either I’m brilliant or I’m a dumb motherfucker.” And I have no one in the mirror behind me pointing a finger saying “why did you do that?”
You’re a pretty private guy typically, how does it feel to be doing a press tour on your life?
I really don’t like to do interviews. So this is very hard for me. It is a whole new area for me, but I’m finding that people are very interested and I’m happy for that. I’m looking for partners. I’m looking for people with ideas and I’m not going away. And I wish Jam the best of luck, there is no negative.
Do you feel like you’re finally starting your dream job?
Well, in our business we’re always, at heart, just professional riverboat gamblers. The riverboat still moves and more people get on it and maybe I’ll have some new deals and things I hope that will come to be. I’m looking for partners and young people who have ideas. I’m also very interested in e-sports, which I think is the next big, big, big thing in the world. I’m working to pursue the first theatrical electronic dance music production. I’ve been working on that and I’m going to focus on that.
Wow you have a lot going on.
Yeah, that’s just today. I got more tomorrow, Dave. It’s all positive. I like what you write and the bottom line is that we’re both still throwing the shit on the walls to see what sticks.