- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On March 28, 2023
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- author, CEO, founder, leadership, music, passion, rock, success
Music producer, promoter, and the founder and CEO of Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, David Fishof, talks about moving from a sports agent to representing The Association, reuniting the Monkees, receiving divine intervention from MTV, why today’s world is unlimited for aspiring artists of any age, the benefit of literally drawing out your goals, reflects on the recent loss of one of his high profile clients, and explains how his rock camp’s #1 export is PASSION.
Whether he’s producing a tour, assembling an All-Starr band with Ringo Starr, or writing a best-selling book, there’s one thing David Fishof is always doing: dreaming. Hailed as one of the most creative and innovative entertainment producers in the world, David has been responsible for some of the most original, successful, and exciting live shows ever brought to the stage. But of all the shows he’s put on over his 40-plus year career, there’s one production that stands out from all the rest: Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp.
After years of good fortune working with veteran rockers like Roger Daltrey, Ringo Starr, The Monkees, Levon Helm, Joe Walsh, Jack Bruce and Peter Frampton, David decided it was time to share his experiences with rock fans around the world. And so, in 1997, he debuted the rock camp—a place where regular people can reconnect with their passion for music alongside the most famous names in the business.
A quarter century of later, the camp has given more than 6,000 folks from around the world a chance to live the rock star dream. Campers get to meet and jam with their musical idols—including Joe Perry, Vince Neil, Jack Bruce, and Jeff Beck—in some of the most legendary venues on Earth, from Abbey Road Studios in London, to the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood, to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.
In July 2010, David teamed up with TV producer Mark Burnett to co-produce a TV reality series on VH1 Classic entitled “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp,” which ran for two seasons. In addition, Giant Films released “Rock Camp”, a documentary from Academy Award winner Doug Blush, covering the history of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, featuring interviews from campers and rock stars alike.
In addition to founding Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, David’s career highlights include reuniting The Monkees for their blowout reunion tour in 1986, and producing Dirty Dancing: The Concert Tour, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Tour, the Happy Together Tours, Classic Superfest, American Gladiators Live Tour, Mortal Kombat Live Tour, and the British Rock Symphony (which featured Roger Daltrey, Alice Cooper, and Jon Anderson). David also worked with Ringo Starr to create the All Starr Band, and over its fifteen-year existence, David has produced eight All Star Band tours.
David’s career has also spanned the sports world. He has represented legends such as NFL greats Phil Simms, Mark Bavaro, Vince Ferragamo, and Jack Reynolds, as well as baseball stars Lou Piniella, Dave Magadan, and Randy Myers.
David also authored the best-selling book “Putting It On The Line” about sports and entertainment, and his second book, “Rock Your Business”, was an Amazon best seller. He was also a featured speaker at the National Speakers Association.
David resides in Los Angeles and is a proud father of five, grandfather of seven, and husband.
Learn more at RockCamp.com.
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Dan Moore: Well, hello everyone. This is Dan Moore, your host. We’re so happy to have David Fishof with us today. David, your background, people can’t see it, but it is covered with guitars, many of which are autographed from great people that you’ve worked with over the years, and as an old rocker myself, welcome to the Action Catalyst.
David Fishof: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, Dan.
Dan Moore: This is exciting. We’re gonna hear all about Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in a few minutes, but what’s so interesting is the twists and turns in your career that have gotten you to this point. And I wonder if you wouldn’t mind kind of recapping what you consider the most important pivot points or the influences that caused you to be in a certain direction that all of a sudden you ricochet off into something totally different and then landed here and this amazing thing that you’ve had going for so, so long.
David Fishof: Okay, so I do this podcast for five hours? Well, I’ve had a very diverse career. You know, I started in the Catskills, you know, booking comedians up there. My first client then became Herschel Bernardi, the actor, uh, well known for Fiddler on the Roof. I started getting into more acting, but then really my love is, uh, was professional.
I always wanted to be a sports agent, so I started really representing professional athletes and, uh, by booking them up in the Catskills of the camps, really worked my way through to, you know, represent some great players over the years. Uh, Lou Pinella, Randy Meyers. Vince Faragamo. Phil Sims, uh, mark Boro, so many, Dave McIn, some, many of the great players in both Major League baseball and football.
And it really gave me the desire to win. You know, I, I, you know, it rubbed off on me, but, you know, after being a sports agent for many years, I honestly got bored. The key of being a sports agent is, is it’s, uh, in the movie, show me the monies, Jerry McGuire. And, you know, as a sports agent, that was my goal. I had to, you know, get players the most money.
So basically after a while I got bored with it and I wanted to be more creative, and someone called me up and said, would I be interested in representing the association, the band, and. I said the association of what? and and, uh, but I went to see the band and I was sharing office space with a lot of music managers, fellow named Gary Kurts, who represented the Talking Heads to Ramones.
And I was a sports agent up in this office. We all shared office space. Shep Gordon represented Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass. So I saw the gold records on the wall. I said, I wanna be in the music business. So I went and, um, heard the, heard the association. And this was in the mid 80. And they hadn’t been around in 20 years, and I decided to, uh, take them on.
And, uh, after doing a great job for them, all the other bands started approaching me like Gary Puck and the Union Gap and the Grassroots and Spanky and Our Gang and the Turtles. And that’s when I came up with the idea in 84 to package these bands and put out a package of called the Happy Together Tour, uh, which is currently still running.
I did that for two years, and the third year I came up with the. To bring the monkeys back, and that was after, um, 20 years. They had never been back together. And I signed the monkeys. I acquired the name cuz they didn’t own it from Columbia Pictures and, and Luck had it with me. I think God said, I’m gonna take care of this guy, fish off mtv.
Decided to air 24 hours of Monkeys , and I’m on the seventh floor of 70 75 Broadway. And, and the eighth and ninth floor is this new network called mtv. When I found out they were gonna be broadcasting it on television, I ran upstairs to see the president. I said, I’m doing the monkey. And a live tour. And they said, well, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re gonna really do monkeys everything on M T V cuz they were the originators of music video.
So they said, let’s work together, you promote our new fledging network, M T V and all your ads, and we’ll promote your live tour. And they did. And little did I know when I went on sale, instead of selling 4,000 seats like I did to Happy Gather tours and 3000 seats, I sold 25,000 tickets in Chicago. I sold 30,000 in Detroit.
I sold at stadium’s arenas. It was the biggest tour. So if you asked me what was my biggest thing, I’d have to say 1986, the monkeys. But the simultaneously, I was representing eight of the New York Giants who went to the Super Bowl in the January of 87. So that was really the turning point in my life when everything just, you know, here I was so busy with the monkeys that Phil Sims writes in his book, he says, our agent was so busy, we’re gonna the football, he’s so busy doing the monkeys.
So I was dancing between. , you know, between my sports world and my, and, and my entertainment world, it was just, those were major years. A few years later, I produced, um, I came up with the idea to do dirty dancing as a live tour, and that was amazing. I did that all around the world and I came up with, I saw the movie and I decided, you know, I’m gonna take this movie and make it into a live show and put tickets up, sale on sale of Radio City Music Hall.
I didn’t even have a show. They wanted to book the, the Dirty Dancing. I had the concept, so we put an ad in in the New York Times. full page Ed. Little did I know, I sold eight shows out and it, it was just, that was amazing. And then you got, a year later I came up with the idea to do Ringo and the All-Star Band.
So I, I went and approached Ringo about doing a tour and, uh, he said, I went to England and, and he said, I was thinking the same thing. And the next thing you know, I’m traveling with Durango in the All-Star Band. I’m on tour with a Beatle, again, another life-changing experience. So, you know, just keeps going and going.
So I, I like the adventure. I like, uh, always coming up with new ideas. And then I finally, I saw how much fun we had doing Ringo in the All-Star Band. I said, you know, if I could give this to the fan, they can see us traveling and writing music and, and just the, the camaraderie that these rock stars have together.
Uh, lemme create a rock camp. And 25 years ago is when I came over there did to do a rock and roll fantasy camp. And that’s where we are.
Dan Moore: Oh my gosh. You’re right. We need at least five hours and, and that’s just a beginning installment. I love hearing these stories. Now let me ask you a question though, along the way. You mentioned in almost in passing, you had eight of your people in the Super Bowl. You had, uh, world Series player, and you were just so busy doing the music. You’re selling yourself short. I think David, you obviously you had this amazing ability to keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time. What general insights can you share with, with our listeners, those who feel like they just have too much? Because you’ve had way more on than most of us ever will.
David Fishof: I got A.D.D.
Dan Moore: Just don’t sleep and keep busy. Huh?
David Fishof: It’s interesting. During Covid, I hosted 160 masterclass on Zoom and I got all these rock stars to come on and talk to my campers and give them the experience they normally would give them.
And people ask questions. And I tell you the common denominator that every one of these artists, managers, record producers had was passion, passion, passion, passion. So I love what I do, and I think that once you get rid of that passion, move on the next thing. So here I was passionate about going on tour.
I love getting on those private planes and getting on hotels. But you know what? I lost that passion. Mm-hmm. So I, I decided I’m not gonna do it anymore. I don’t do things in my. Unless they’re passionate. And I’ve told that to my kids. I’ve told that to my, to anyone. I have a son-in-law’s, a rabbi, you know, he, he got up there and, and, and gave a speech the other day and he said, my parents wanted to become a lawyer.
When I asked my father-in-law, I wanted to marry his daughter and can I have her hand, he said to me, what are you gonna do to make a living? He says, my parents want me to be a lawyer. I’m, I’ve got the top 3% in the law boards. I said, but what do you wanna do? He says, I wanna be a rabbi. I wanna lead a. I said, you be a rabbi and I’ll support you. And so again, passion, passion, passion.
Dan Moore: I think it’s fantastic and particularly the changing lives aspect of this cuz for knowing just a little bit about fantasy camp and I want you to, to tell us more about how it got started and how it’s grown to be, I guess more than 70 camps now have been held. You not only ignite passion in the fans that have a chance to come and play with these amazing artists, but you reignite the passion in the artists themselves.
David Fishof: So Dan, you know, and that’s why I love the movie. You know, I didn’t wanna do the movie and I got talked into doing the movie, and I’m so glad I did because I didn’t realize. You know, I mean, I realize the rock stars love coming to camp, but to see that they go through a life-changing experience, of course the fan goes through it.
And that’s really what I love doing every day. And if you ask me what my favorite thing of doing my entire career, I love the players, I love the artists, but now I’m getting to change people’s lives and they’re able to come to rock and Roll finish. They’re not only changing their lives in the way of music, but you know, a woman calls me up the other day, says My husband doesn’t have road rage anymore.
My husband is vying his passion, you know, so the head of Oracle comes to camp and he says, after camp, you know, I learned how to listen. I never knew how to listen. , uh, because he walked into a room and he told the rockstar, you know, I wanna do this song and my band wants to do this. And, and the counselor said to him, the music director said to him, listen, I gotta teach the song to five other people.
So today, I’m, I’m, I’m able to work everyday changing lives and. I love it. It’s just every day I get an email. Every day I get a call. You change my life because by attending Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, people get to come in for four days. Ignite their passion. Reminds ’em what it was like when they were a child, when they were in high school band.
They were in a college band, but they had to quit, had to go get a regular job, and they couldn’t do what their real passion was. So they went and they got a job as an accountable lawyer, whatever, or, or, or anything in tech. Deep inside a musician is a musician. A singer is a singer, an artist eventually wants to get their art out.
What Rock Camp has done is given people opportunities to really express themselves. And then they’re able to leave the camp and they’re able to go start bands. They’re able to go teach music. So we’re talking about igniting the passion.
Dan Moore: I think it’s just remarkable what you’re doing because life changing can happen in lots and lots of ways overnight. And in the artists themselves too. Can you comment maybe on a couple of those experiences?
David Fishof: So what, what Rock Camp did for a lot of the artists, Rudy Sark says in the film Rock Camp, he says, I got my love, my passion. For music, uh, for playing at Rock Camp and I guess Nancy Wilson. She explained the best on an interview for Nancy Wilson of a Heart.
She said, you know, when we start out our career, it’s about writing, um, the songs and getting a hit song and making it. Now, once we make it, , it becomes about lawyers, agents, you know, lawsuits, , you know, and record labels and deals and contracts. He says, the one thing I love about Rock Camp is it’s, it’s pure music.
They’re there just to make music. Yes, it becomes a business eventually, but you know, the business, they, you know, they lose their interest. I mean, I recommend everybody watch The Beatles, the Let It Be thing on Disney Plus. It’s great. You don’t have to be a Beatle fan to watch it. Number one, you learn how songs come.
You get to see even the Beatles, George Harrison, he was bored. He walked out of the Beatles cuz he’s not happy. Paul and John aren’t giving him the songs. So he leaves the band and you know, in the end, he proves it to those two guys and that, listen, I can write, I could have done as good because he has more number one songs.
When he leaves the Beatles, he has bigger hits, but even he lost his passion. , can you imagine? You’re in the Beatles and you lose your passion and he walks out and the other guys have to talk him into it. You can even see that John is not even that into it. Paul is. Paul is, Ringo is, but, but he is. Even a guy like Paul McCarney lose his passion.
Now when they get on stage at the end. I don’t wanna spoil it, but. . You see John really coming up there cuz the mic, the lights are on him. But even he lost the enthusiasm of being a beetle. Mm-hmm . So I, I think it’s, it comes to show you that no matter how big you are, you have to keep yourself passionate and healthy.
Dan Moore: Well that’s a good point cuz you mentioned that soon as the spotlight was on, even John came back to life. What about those of us that really never have a chance to be in the spotlight at all? What are some internal self-coaching things we can do without a crowd of adoring fans out?
David Fishof: Well, I think today the world is different. You can become a star. You can, there’s, there’s, there’s Instagram, there’s Facebook. There are people who have never, who never ever thought they would’ve. 10,000 followers a podcast. . How about this? I’ve been doing a lot of podcasts. People, you know, you’re a big organization, the Action Catalyst, but there are a lot of people who are just starting podcasts, reaching out to people.
You know, bands. Let’s talk about bands. In the olden days, the record labels would sign and act. The first album would sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Then they would say, six months later, you gotta do a second album. Let me tell you something. That first album, they were thinking since they were children, what this songs are gonna be.
Now of a sudden, six months later, you’re asking ’em to write another album. That, that you wanna expect that to be a hit. You know, our business is very difficult and today, these bands, you can start recording your own music. , you can put it out. You don’t need a record label. You can get it out on social media.
You can sell merchandise, you can tour without it being signed to an agency. Call any club and say, listen, you know, I got, I can, I can go on Spotify, put my music up. I can see what towns people are listening to my music. I can book a a show there. I got emails. So today there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go after your passion or the film.
To me, why I love the film is that I wanted people, Watch the film and not be able to, you know, these people do it through music, but you can, you can rechange your life anytime. And last night, my wife showed me this whole new world of metaverse out there. You know, there’s a whole world that people can open up stores, get their art out there, and get their, and, and, and do anything they want. The World’s Unlimited today.
Dan Moore: Well, I love that message of encouragement. That’s such a powerful thing cuz it’s universal. It doesn’t have to be regarding music or art or anything. It can be who am I as a person And there’s ways that I can get my message out. And if it’s the motive is to change people’s lives, it’s one that never gets old. You never get bored with that.
David Fishof: I just returned, I was in Israel for a month this summer. I cannot tell you that I must have been approached 10 new app ideas. You know, in Israel they came up with. They’ve come up with, you know, all, all the great technology comes out of Israel because they make their people go to the army there.
And what happens is, is that they get creative and they, everyone’s coming up with a new app idea. So again, it’s so easy today to find success in this new world of, of social media. And if you use this stuff right, it can really take you a ways.
Dan Moore: Let’s talk for a second about brick walls, if you don’t mind. Cuz over the course of your amazing career, I’m sure you’ve been trucking along at various points and then slam right into something you were not expecting. Any insights on what to do when suddenly, it seems like the world has put a big obstacle in front of you. You can’t see around it, under it or anything.
David Fishof: So I’ve had that. Uh, I remember after doing the Monkees Tour, I decided that, um, I, I’m gonna quit. I’m gonna quit the, I tried to quit the business a few times, lost the passion. You know, there’s a book called The Artist Way. It, uh, really helped me. It got me to write every day for 45 minutes to an hour. I did a great program, a life-changing program called Hoffman Institute.
I went up north to a place. I went away for seven. And worked on myself. Uh, Hoffman’s gotten very popular now because Katie Perry went there. A lot of the artists are talking about it. Uh, someone sent me a thing from the New York Times yesterday. It was a story, the Hoffman Institute, where it basically, our parents gave us positive traits and negative traits.
This helps you identify the negative traits, get it outta your system. rebuild you as a child, but when you were that little David before anyone ever hurt you, I think these programs, there are programs like that where you can reboot yourself. Yeah. Oh, I can’t tell you. Even a guy like me. Yes. Like there, there are days that I, I do Tony Robbins, you know, he says Make a move.
Any of those self-help programs, the books are great. There are so many great books to read. Here’s a great one. I was having frustration with Rock Camp because here I’m telling you about all these successful tours that I was doing, and they, they were getting bigger and bigger. Now, all of a sudden, I start doing rock and roll fantasy camp, and I’m only limited to take in one drummer a band or two, or or one bass player in a band.
So it’s not like Coachella where I can take the fence and sell as many spots. I’m limited. Well, I was, I was losing money. I was getting frustra. and I picked up a book called What Got Me There. We’ll Get you here. You know, you all of a sudden you think you can just pick yourself up. And I was successful in this business.
Hey, I’m gonna go in the restaurant business, but I, I don’t know the restaurant business. Great book. A guy named Goldsmith, I think he wrote, so I, I believe readings 12 step programs from certain people, podcasts. There’s so many great programs out that when you hit the brick wall and we all hit the brick.
Every one of us hits a brick wall. It’s just we gotta do something about it.
Dan Moore: If we can hit the brick wall, we don’t have to be the brick wall. Correct. Curious, you mentioned casualty, a d, D, you’re very much a hyperkinetic individual, I’m quite sure about that. But do you have a morning routine? Anything that you consistently start your day with you could share with us?
David Fishof: I wanted to share with the exercise. I think that’s so important. Prayer and exercise. Prayer. You know, I wake up every morning. I do my prayers being an Orthodox Jew. I, uh, try to go to synagogue. Then I do my exercise. I get on that Peloton bike, but I’m always exercising. . I think that once you, when you, and prayer can be meditation, it could be anything.
It can be going out in the field and just talking to the Lord and saying, answer my prayers, asking him one-on-one. Whatever it takes that, whatever religion you’re in, I, I think, or if you’re, even if you’re not religious at all, just to give yourself some time to meditate and exercise. Once I do those two things, Dan, every day my day’s done, everything else is a bonus.
Dan Moore: Hmm. Love that. That’s the foundation. You build everything else upon that foundation. Yes. One other kind of important bit of advice, I’d love to hear from you. What’s a way to reignite a passion?
David Fishof: I think the writing helped me the most. You get it out, get it all out again. You know, Hoffman taught me, it was a lot of my lessons are in me.
I would go on a date and I’d say, damn, what do you think of this young lady I went out with? So I’d ask you a mil or what do you think of this idea today? I make my decisions cuz I know it’s in my heart of hearts. You know, it’s like a football team. , everybody gets the same draft picks. Why does Coach Belichick win every year?
Uh, you know, it, it’s all about the, the, the motivation. And, and if you want something, you can get it. Draw a picture of it. I put a picture on the wall and I’m gonna get there. You know, uh, Arnold Schwarzenegger, when they go to him to offer him a film and they say, uh, Arnold, we, here’s a, uh, Arnold. We, we hit the script.
He says, I don’t wanna see the script. I wanna see what the ad is gonna look. In the newspaper, what’s the ad? What’s the public gonna see the final product being? Why do that? I draw a picture of what my camp is gonna be. I’m doing a songwriting fantasy camp in Nashville, so I drew a picture of it. I went to Desmond Child, the best singer songwriter in, in the business, and, and I, but I draw a picture in my mind and draw a picture on paper.
I create an. When I went to sign Ringo Star, I had a guy do a commercial for me. It’s coming live in concert. Ringo Star in the old star band, just to show him what the final result will be. If you put the picture in front of you, there’s no reason you can’t reach that goal. You wanna create an app, draw that picture.
You wanna open a restaurant, draw that picture, draw a business plan, draw. You know, there’s so many books. Draw out what, what, what you say. You can’t. And then you’ll be surprised. Slowly, step by step by step, you can build on it. And there’s so many resources today with Google. You can find anything you want.
You can get online and draw a free business plan. There’s so much help today. Podcasts like this are amazing. They give people the, you know, keep listening. There’s so much information.
Dan Moore: Well, David, we’re kind of wrapping up on time, but I’d like to reminisce about something with you for just a moment. I think you probably brought the Monkees to Nashville to the Starwood Amphitheater back in the eighties. Yes. They were with Gary P in the Union Gap as a double bill. Yes. I was one of the 15,000 people sitting on the grass in that question. Yes. It was absolutely fantastic and today we just learned that Michael Nesbith, who was really the, the true musician originally in the Monkeys, the true musician, a great songwriter, great individual, interesting life passed away. Can you share a memory about Michael?
David Fishof: In 1986, I bring the Monkees back and I hired Mickey, Davey and Peter. I never approached Mike because his mother had invented liquid paper and everyone said he the paper, he was never gonna do it. So I never approached him. When he came to the middle of the tour, he called me up, he said, you know, I’d like to reignite with the guys and, and perform at the Greek theater with him.
And I got to meet him that night. And, and he came on stage and it was the first time in 20 years the four of ’em got got together. He’s a very talented individual, as you said, musically. He was the, he was probably the musician of the, of the monkeys, and that’s probably why they broke up.
That they couldn’t, you know, do more of their music. But in the end, you know, he gets a lot of credit for M T V. Uh, you know, he came up with the concept of music videos and Sure. Genius. Sure genius. And so, again, sorry to see his loss and you know, just thinking we lost Peter. We lost Davey. We lost Mike. And now, um, and Mickey’s alive, God bless him.
And, you know, the, the monkeys, I hope Mickey will be alive to see them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because they haven’t gotten in. They deserve to get, Anytime you mention the monkeys, everyone smiles. So they really had a, they, they, they really had a, an effect on every one of us growing up.
Dan Moore: I think it’s fantastic. I just last week listened to a cut by Mickey Dolans on an album produced by another one of my guests, Dennis Scott, which is the music of Mr. Rogers. Oh yeah. And Mickey Dolans was one of the artists that performed on that. It’s kind of a mashup album. Absolutely brilliant. So thank you for those memories and thank you for what you do. And I am pumped, invigorated, and inspired by this. David, thank you so much for being on the Action Catalyst.
David Fishof: Thank you. And I hope everyone gets to see the, the film Rock Camp.