Kenny Kerner, a prominent advocate for independent artists, passed away on May 27, 2014 after a distinguished 40-year career. Kerner wore many hats in the music industry, as a songwriter, producer, journalist, publicist, manager and author, before settling into what he considered one of his most rewarding positions, a music business educator.
He loved to talk about a discovery he made early in his career when he found a promo package in a box of unsolicited demos and got so excited about it he convinced Neil Bogart (founder of Casablanca Records) to sign a band called KISS. He recalled, “The demo sounded raw, like street rock & roll, but their image really got to me.” Kerner, and his partner Richie Wise, produced KISS’ first two albums and, in doing so, entered rock music history. As a producer Kerner received 18 gold and platinum records for his work with Gladys Knight, Jose Feliciano, Badfinger and, of course, KISS.
Later he became a journalist and editor for several music publications, including Music Connection where he was Senior Editor and conducted interviews with musical icons Clive Davis, John Lennon and Michael Jackson. He was also the first editor to profile Nirvana, Beck, and Guns N’ Roses with cover stories.
J. Michael Dolan, MC’s founder (along with E. Eric Bettelli), recalls: “As part of the editorial team, Kenny made a significant difference to the growth of Music Connection.” Bettelli, MC’s current publisher and general manager, adds: “Kenny was not only our editor for many years, he was also a good friend. He will be missed by everyone in the music community.”
After MC, Kerner followed what he called his greatest ambition: he formed a Music Business Program for the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA, offering one of the most innovative curricula in the industry for independent artists and music business entrepreneurs. He guided and directed that program for 11 years.
Recently, Kerner co-founded thecoolschool with Chris Fletcher. In February he spoke with this column about the new endeavor specifically tailored for DIY artists and his passion was evident. “I still feel the same about music and love helping artists,” he explained. “They shouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars to learn about the business,” he noted. “At thecoolschool they can come just for a lecture or workshop that impacts their careers. And it’ll only cost them $20.”
Chris Fletcher remembers Kenny Kerner as dedicated, determined and detailed. She also speaks for all of us who knew him, “Although he could be demanding, he was one of the most lovable characters I have ever known. We will all miss him dearly.”
Fletcher is continuing thecoolschool with guest speakers (all industry pros) per Kerner’s wishes. Visit http://thecoolschool.biz.
By Bernard Baur