His ticket to ride was music.
Even before he went South in the mid-’70s, Gene Sculatti was a Rolling Stone writer and weekly music columnist for the Sacramento Bee. In Los Angeles, his interest in the workings of popular culture led to a variety of positions and assignments.
Following his tenure as the first editor of the radio industry’s premier trade paper, Radio & Records, he served, from 1975 to 1981, as Editorial Director of Warner Bros. Records. There, reporting to Creative Services VP’s Stan Cornyn and Derek Taylor, he was responsible for generating all of the label’s advertising copy, administering its promotional-album series and overseeing its respected Waxpaper and Circular publications, in support of such artists as James Taylor, Van Halen, Rod Stewart, the Sex Pistols, George Benson, Emmylou Harris and Prince. Active on the local music scene, he also hosted L.A.’s first dedicated punk-rock and New Wave music show, Unprovoked Attack (KPFK-FM, 1979-80).
In 1982, he exchanged Bugs’ Burbank digs for the eye of the storm: CBS Television, Hollywood, where, through 1991, as a research executive, he evaluated test-audience response to more than 300 network pilots and made key recommendations to the programming department. During this time, he also contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles magazine, New West and the L.A. Weekly,
Gene became well known at the record companies. He worked on projects for A&M, Capitol, Columbia, Elektra and Rhino Records. He packaged a variety of books on popular culture: The Catalog of Cool (Warner Books, 1982), Popcorn (Pocket Books, 1984) and San Francisco Nights: The Psychedelic Music Trip (St. Martin’s, 1985). He adapted his first book to another radio show, The Cool & the Crazy, a popular feature on NPR’s KCRW-FM from 1984 to 1987, contributed columns to Oui magazine and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, and worked on pioneering interactive-CD programming for Time Warner.
He got religion in ’91, via “the Bible of the music industry.” From ’91 to 2003, he served as Billboard magazine’s Director of Special Issues, responsible for producing some 80 editorial packages and advertising supplements annually. Among the latter, he created sections to promote Elton John, Berry Gordy, Lucent Technologies, Ray Charles, the Putumayo clothing line, Tim McGraw, Snoop Dogg and Spinal Tap. Another decade, another book package: Too Cool (St. Martin’s, 1993).
He followed his Billboard tenure with numerous freelance assignments: compiling playlists for iTunes’ music store; serving, from 2006 to 2008, on a “coaches panel” for USA Today, that advised American Idol finalists on the do’s and don’ts of competition; helping curate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s ‘On the Air: Rock and Roll Radio’ interactive exhibit. In 2011, he provided the initial research for the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, which was the first film to sell at 2013’s Sundance festival. He added two more publishing credits in 2012: contributing to 101 Essential Rock Records (Jeff Gold, Gingko Press) and authoring his own first e-book, Dark Stars and Anti-Matter: 40 Years of Loving, Leaving and Making Up with the Music of the Grateful Dead, which launched Rhino/Warner Music’s Single Notes book series for Amazon Kindle.