Today, Jim Jj Johnston Salutes Robin Ram
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”.
By Jim Jj Johnston
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”. Today we are shining the light on Robin Ram.
I’ve known Robin for decades and always found this lad to be smart, respectful, determined, passionate and a hot steamin' cup of fun. He is a hell of a sales and marketing guy and leader. We were on different sides of the music and radio industries but always hit it off and continue to have great discussions. When I returned to the west coast as the GM of Corus Radio, Robin and his family had moved there as well, a few years earlier. Robin contacted me and we finally got together, and he brought me up to speed with the wonderful things he and the family were up to. I met his delightful wife Mandy who has had quite a fascinating history herself and does excellent work in the community.
When I first started JJIMS Inc. JJ International Media/Management Solutions INC. just over five years ago, the late and great Gary Miles, who unfortunately I never had the pleasure of working with, was one of the first to call me. I was surprised because I never really thought he thought that much of me. He became a bit of a mentor and, as the consultant to Vista Radio, he threw some business my way to help him find and coach/mentor a General Manager for Vista’s Yellowknife property.
Yes it is way the hell up there, but it is a tidy little profit centre. I thought long and hard and remembered a conversation with Robin where he said he might want to transfer his skills to radio? I hooked him up with the powers that be and off he went to the great white north. I coached/mentored him, he soaked it up like a sponge and did a great job. Five years later, he is returning to Vancouver with today being his last day.
Robin's industry career started in 1976 by lugging boxes in the warehouse at A&A Records and Tapes. In less than two years he worked his way up to the position of buyer for the chain. A&A and its sister company ARS that distributed music into Woolco, Sears, K-Mart and others were both owned by CBS. In the early '80s, both companies were sold to senior CBS executives Terry Lynd and Fred Rich and senior A&A executive Dick Moody, and it became Sound Insight Limited. It was at this time that Robin moved into the Sales department until ARS was closed and he then transferred back to the purchasing department. A&A had started looking for revenue beyond music and Robin was tasked with leading this new strategy which saw the selections grow to include video games, t-shirts, branded pens, branded pencils, accessories and eventually movies. A&A's growth was aggressive and rapid during this time, and they became the No. 1 music retailer in Canada.
It wasn't all business as time was spent on industry events. Along with the legendary Garry Newman (he hosed me good a few times, stories to be told later), they went on to launch the Music Industry Baseball League and worked for many many years on the Industry Golf Tournament raising money for Music Therapy and other charities.
Other charity events included the Team Toronto vs Team Montreal hockey games, which included local music and radio people. That started as a chance to play at the old Forum and the old Gardens but it went to another level when NHL’ers like Dave Gardner and Dick Redmond took time to join the fun and what happened on the bus and train trips stayed on the bus and train trips (and stays off facebook haha).
A&A had a history of working with brands, and that grew, and as Senior Vice President he worked to expand to include partnerships with radio, automotive, food, beverage, beer and many other partners. Recognized by the labels for his contribution to the industry, Robin received numerous gold and platinum albums for the likes of Tragically Hip, Michael Jackson and many others.
From A&A and a brief time with Saturn, he moved to Pindoff as VP Purchasing and Marketing. During his tenure, he worked with Kroum and Eva Pindoff on setting up programs with the Canadian Red Cross which has amounted to donations of over $20 Million to date.
Continuing work with the labels in developing exclusive programs resulted in multiple programs, including merchandise and autograph sessions for Celine Dion, Don Cherry and other artists.
While at Pindoff, the annual national conventions were always an experience and one evening, in particular, was 'excessive' he says: “The front desk of the hotel called me at 4 am saying my people were in the kitchen foraging for food, so I hauled myself downstairs to deal with it. While I was at the desk, I took the time to make some 'wake up' calls and more than one caller was surprised that I was on the other end of the phone. So what do you do...the only thing possible...even though everyone was on time..you put one of them on stage ..sunglasses and all to host the morning calendar....this was the same rep who was also found sleeping on the sidewalk...everyone worked hard and had a chance to blow off some steam....”
Some fond memories include Alice Cooper in Detroit on Halloween Night, a trip to Russia to see Big Country, visiting a bar in Barbados with Jagger & Richards, and presenting Madonna with one of her first awards.
In 1996, Robin accepted a position with the Handleman Company to become a VP/GM of Sellthrough Entertainment (Tampa) which specialized in holiday music and video as well as Entertainment Zone (Detroit) which had distribution into Sears.
Both companies later became part of North Coast Entertainment and a lot of time was spent travelling between Toronto, Tampa and Detroit for almost two years. During that time, a lot of custom projects were happening like a Disney Christmas album which went on to be a platinum album on the Billboard Christmas chart. Staying within North Coast Entertainment, he moved to Montreal to take on the role as SVP for Madacy Entertainment.
Working across the U.S. with new media partners such as TBS resulted in ‘as seen on TV’ packages, pledge incentives PBS, grocery continuity programs, and numerous custom packages for retailers and brands alike. One of which was a compilation CD to promote the 2000 NHL All-star game in Toronto. He even appeared live on the Shopping Channel to sell DVD box sets. During his time at Madacy, it went on to become the No. 1 Independent label based on total chart positions.
Robin moved back to Toronto to set up an office for Madacy and moved on to set up his own shingle in a partnership, and BrandXtensions Marketing was born with distribution deals with Universal Music in Canada and Entertainment One in the US. They had multiple compilation partnerships with Much Music, CMT, Family Channel and a No. 1 Halloween album with Scream Television.
The family then decided to head to the west coast, and this is where we reconnected. Robin spent time as President of Sound Revolution which owned Charity Tunes. Charity Tunes was an online site where part of the revenue was donated to the charity of your choice. He signed up music labels and charities, including the Canadian Red Cross and Big Brothers.
He then went on his own again working with companies to put their merchandise into retail outlets in North America. This resulted in Disney Book/CD packages being placed with major partners such as Walgreens, Kroger, Ovewaitea, Staples and Overstock.com. While in Vancouver in his spare time, to help out a friend, he got his security licence to work with NBC at the 2010 Olympics and was in the NBC commissary watching the Gold Medal Hockey Game. He also had his Fireworks Operator Certificate
Having worked at various positions in retail, wholesale, distribution, label and media partners in both Canada and the US, Robin took the next opportunity to work in radio. On the move again, this time to Yellowknife (with a repeater in Hay River) to Moose FM with Vista Radio as General Manager/General Sales Manager where building partnerships, developing promotions and working with the local community became a daily routine. In his spare time there he spent time volunteering as a Director of the Evergreen Cultural Centre, Director of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, NWT Tourism Advisory Committee, a member of CASARA (Canadian Air Search and Rescue Association), Level 1 Alpine Official as well as a certified Montessori School Teacher. After almost five years, today is the day he is going back to Vancouver for the next chapter.
Robin is an avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan. While living in Montreal, he had a Maple Leaf licence plate on the front of his vehicle which did not go over well with Hab fans. He is also a big Blue Jays fan who was at most of the opening days while in Toronto and got to know some of the players from the 92/93 teams. He was there for the home games of both world series (Robin and his wife Mandy were there when Carter hit the series-winning home run) and the all-star game in Toronto as well. Not to left out, he was at Game No. 1 for the Toronto Raptors NBA franchise.
With a massive array of funny anecdotes, he says it is not easy to think of the ones that don’t involve extra 'beverages'. “I am trying to protect the innocent of people the likes of Randy Lennox, Garry Newman, Ken Graydon, Stan Kulin, Leonard Kennedy, Vito Ierullo, Bill Ott, Walt Grealis, Stan Klees, Randy Wells, Joe Summers, Deane Cameron, Lisa Zbitnew, JJ Jim Jj Johnston, and 365’ers David Farrell and Don Oates and countless others. There is not enough space to mention all those crazies that made it fun every day with the memories and antics we shared...I am forever grateful.”
Robin sums up: “Family is extremely important, and I am very proud of my Mandy, my wife of over 26 years, who also spent time in the music business where we met. Mandy is a member of Actra and is a successful performing artist in her own right having appeared in hundreds of commercials and show credits in England and Canada. She is currently writing and directing shows in Vancouver (Yellowknife as well) and has been working within schools for artistic programs. Andrew and Makena are the two youngest who live at home and are both doing well with Makena following in her mum's artistic footsteps and currently in the professional program at the GOH Ballet Academy. I tell everyone that she gets her ballet skill from me, but no one is buying it... The three older girls (Danielle, Natasha and Tawnee) are all living in the Toronto area and doing well.”
With Rob, he genuinely deals with integrity, fun and strives to create solutions where all partners get something out of the process. He quite rightly says when you do, everyone wins which leads to better and longer partnerships.
This is one genuinely nice fellow. He is intelligent, hardworking, friendly, respectful, and entrepreneur, leader, and loyal company person and friend. He is a solid community guy as evidenced by his time up north where he quickly got involved in the fabric of that community in a big way.
And above all, he is such a great family man devoted to wife Mandy and their five kids. He’s moving back to the west coast as of today, and I am sure you will be hearing more about him soon. Keep it going, Robin. Atta be!
Thank you, Robin Ram, for being one of “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Robin’s positive story. Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
– Jim JJ Johnston is the multi-award-winning CEO, President and Chief Talent/Content Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries worldwide