Musical genius Mark Ronson—DJ, producer, songwriter, collaborator extraordinaire—may not be a man of many words, but he sure knows how to use them. Ronson was the guest speaker at OMD’s private celebration of its people at CES 2019, selected in part because he knows more than most about how to collaborate in such a way that your own vibe is represented but you let your partner have equal or more room to shine.

The private dinner at HEXX, across the street from the Bellagio, was introduced by John Osborn, who reminded his guests that it’s the people who make OMD special. Osborn was joined by CMO Laurel Rossi (who’s assembled all the content you’ve seen written about right here during CES), who introduced Ronson and interviewer Bob Pittman, CEO of iHeartMedia, as “incredibly collaborative.”

Ronson told of his humble start—”when you’re starting off, you’re just lucky to collaborate with anyone. Lucky for me, Amy Winehouse took a risk on me,” he told his rapt audience—and musical education courtesy of MTV, which, ironically, Pittman helped launch back in the day. So Ronson grew up on a mashup of Michael Jackson and Tom Petty, but grew to love and respect “people in their own lanes like Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga.” He cut his teeth DJing at New York hip hop clubs in the 90s where “places if you didn’t keep the room moving, they’d throw shit at you.”

A natural collaborator, Ronson learned to work as a producer with the groove given to him or brought to him by artists such as Mars, who didn’t want to sound like another James Brown, but more like The Police—no small left turn for such a soulful artist. Still, DJing helped “keep the lights on” and taught him how to read a crowd. “I felt I could find what makes any room tick … it’s almost like a math puzzle.”

Interestingly, Ronson doesn’t necessarily feel like that instinct has helped him divine the next musical trend coming around the corner—something any good strategy executive needs to have in her wheelhouse. In his mind, sussing out the next big thing has to do with vocals: “I always go for this classic thing: does the voice connect?” he offered.

Pittman ended the chat with a classic philosophical chin-scratcher: Is Ronson’s talent the product of nature or nurture? Our guest of the night settled on nurture, based on the fact that he spent much of his life surrounded by the children of such musical legends as Lennon and McCartney. “It’s a combination of inspiration and perspiration,” he ultimately admitted.

Given that he went on to DJ the party that followed OMD’s dinner, Ronson mused: “We’ll see if I can still read a room.”

 

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