Sherman Lecture tackles branding, cable and rock ‘n’ roll

What’s the biggest thing that Eric Sherman has learned through his career in cable, music and entertainment?

It all boils down to brand.

The speaker at the 10th annual Chuck and Elaine Sherman Lecture on Oct. 4, Sherman is the executive vice president of business development at Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment in New York. He’s helped to launch cable channels and, for the past few years, has managed the career of Steven Tyler.

He shared stories of both his successful and failed attempts at building brands, including the reinvention of Aerosmith’s lead singer.

Sherman and Tyler started working together in 2009.

“I thought it was going to be a wild ride and it was wilder that I ever imagined,” Sherman said.

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photos by Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University

There had been some damage to Tyler’s brand, including a YouTube video of him falling off the stage at a concert, likely because of chemical impairment. So, together, they set some goals. They wanted to give him a new identity outside of Aerosmith, using endorsements, fashion and books. Sherman wanted broaden his audience through new avenues of exposure.

Sherman said the private Tyler is an incredible father, great with kids and is a funny, generous and compassionate person. It was time for the public to see this side.

The solution came in a limousine ride after a concert in the U.K.  The radio newscast said Simon Cowell was leaving American Idol.

“Steven turned to me and said, ‘Get me that job’,” Sherman said.

The impact was strong and immediate. Sherman showed the audience a clip from the American Idol auditions in which Tyler meets a contestant’s physically challenged fiancée.

“He sings so good because he sings to you,” Tyler tells her.

It was this moment that led to a Rolling Stone headline that reads “From Bad Boy to America’s Sweetheart.”

Sherman told of another success story, the launch of VH1 Classic, and of a project that didn’t go so well, MTV Espanol.

“We didn’t do enough research,” he said of the failed MTV subsidiary.

They created a channel for Spanish-language music to young Hispanics in America, but “they’re not speaking Spanish.” That audience segment was watching the English version of MTV and did not want to move over, he said.

“We really did a pretty bad job here,” he said.

Sherman ended with some advice to the students in the room about how they portray themselves to the world. He said to think about everything they post online.

“Use these platforms, but use them cautiously,” Sherman said. “Whether you know it or not, you’re building your own brand.”