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Gattinella’s got gold

Local producer worked at both Windham Hill and Capitol Records.|

Sonoma County folks interested in marketing and consumer trends might consider taking a class at Santa Rosa Junior College from Professor Roy Gattinella. He has been teaching the subject for 19 years and knows a thing or two about such topics.

The course description for his consumer behavior class includes “the effects of evolving consumer activity and the influence of trends, fads, buzz, pop culture and lifestyle swings on business and consumer behavior.”

This installment of “Gold in Them Hills,” a series devoted to the people in our area who have earned gold records, is about Gattinella. Before he began his career at SRJC, Gattinella was a record company executive who studied those consumer trends and successfully directed the record business in new directions.

Armed with an MBA in marketing, Gattinella was one of the first employees at Windham Hill Records, a label that Billboard magazine called “new age.” It specialized in mellow acoustic music and was very popular. Their records were sold in traditional record stores, but also in health food and book stores.

Reached by phone in his Santa Rosa home, Gattinella talked excitedly about his days with the fledgling record label.

“I joined Windham Hill pretty early on, in the early ‘80s. There were only 10 of us,” Gattinella said. “Because it was such a small label, we all worked together conceptually on what to do. I was running the marketing side. We had to read the market and figure out what was missing, what the zietgiest of the time time would reward us with.”

He said the first gold record he worked on was a cut from pianist George Winston.

“Then we started compilations,” said Gattinella. “We would come up with a theme and find our artists who wanted to contribute. That was enough to sell a ton of records. We would put really nice artwork on the cover, poly sleeve on the inside, made the vinyl super thick...nice pressings, they just trusted us.”

He went on, “(new age fans) would gamble on buying a record with unknown people on it just because it had Windham Hill on the cover.”

The marketing professor concluded with, “I have several gold and platinum records for collections of artists that still people have never heard of.”

Another big hit came his way because of his noticing a certain undeniable presence of angels in the culture.

“In the early ‘90s, I noticed this concept of angels was percolating. People started having little angels hanging from their rear-view mirrors. Girls had angels sewed onto their packpacks. This whole notion of angels, cherubs was very apparent.”

Then he encountered a little serendipity. “I ran into a woman in L.A. who told me she was working on a PBS documentary about angels.”

Gattinelli, the marketing guru, had his antennae up. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute, what?’”

He explained, “So I got together with our AR (artists and repertoire) guy and said maybe we should do a conceptual record about angels….music inspired by angels. We got KD Lang, Jane Siberry, and several others all lined up to contribute. We put together the CD ’In Search of Angels.’”

The luck continued, “The woman used our music as the soundtrack for the documentary she was making. There was such a buzz, the recording shipped gold.“

Shipping gold means that there were orders for at least 500,000 copies, the threshold at which a gold record is awarded. A platinum record is one that sells 1 million or more. Gold and platinum records are presented by the Recording Industry Association of America. They are given to musicians and writers. They can also be presented to all others who worked toward the successful sales of the record.

Gattinelli moved on to an attractive position as vice president of catalog marketing for Capitol Records. They wanted the wiz kid from Windham Hill to duplicate his success at the iconic tower in Hollywood.

Gattinelli explained, “I was in charge of the ‘vault,’ any non brand-new releases. Capitol has an enormous vault.”

The vault was the entire recorded history of Capitol Records and it was his to play with. He went on, “The Beatles anthologies. That was my team. My first project was the Beach Boys ’Pet Sounds’ box set.“

Gattinella added: “They also hired me to sell the music that no one had heard of. The first thing we did was the ’Ultra Lounge’ series. It was Vegas, hip lounge music from the ‘50s. We packaged it in a very cool way, it blew up! 12-14 volumes. We mined the catalog.“

There were many other success stories during his tenure. His team turned out several releases that went gold. Others sold hundreds of thousands of copies, but because they were “branded releases,” done for Pottery Barn and Starbucks, they did not count toward gold records.

After his days with Capitol Records, Gattinella moved on to work for an internet company. That ran its course and, after taking a year off, Gattinella settled in Sonoma County. He was attracted to something that many of us take for granted. “This is a beautiful place. When we see this area, especially creative people, this area just resonates with us,” Gattinella explained.

All together, Gattinella has 10 gold and platinum records. Where does somebody keep all that hardware?

All together, Gattinella has 10 gold and platinum records.

“Connected to my garage in my wine cellar,” he said. “That’s where all my gold records are, so basically, no one sees them.”

Nowadays, Gattinella teaches his courses via Zoom and relaxes playing keyboard, his chosen instrument. He said, “I play with a little group called Blue Radio. It’s a quartet, we play instrumental version of popular songs.“

Because Gattinella has touched so many local residents in his role at SRJC, and because he hopes to move here one day soon, he qualifies as an honorary Valley of the Tunes resident. Maybe he can repackage us ….

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