Ronnie Lippin, Music Publicist Who Reignited Careers, Dead at 59

Worked With Hallmark to Help Launch Exclusive CD Program

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Ronnie Lippin, a veteran music publicist who stepped sprightly between the worlds of rock royalty and corporate culture, died Sunday after a long battle with a rare form of breast cancer. She was 59.
Ronnie Lippin was president of the Los Angeles-based Lippin Group and an 'Ad Age' Entertainment Marketer of the Year in 2005.
Ronnie Lippin was president of the Los Angeles-based Lippin Group and an 'Ad Age' Entertainment Marketer of the Year in 2005. Credit: Lester Cohen

Ms. Lippin, who was named one of Advertising Age's Entertainment Marketers of the Year in 2005 for helping reintroduce Prince to mainstream audiences, was president of the Los Angeles-based Lippin Group, a company founded by her husband, public-relations and marketing executive Dick Lippin.

Helping musicians become brands
During her 30-plus year career, Ms. Lippin directed PR and, in a larger sense, helped build the brands of musicians such as Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Michael McDonald, Peter Frampton, the Who and others.

When Prince wanted to break back into the spotlight after a years-long absence, he tapped Ms. Lippin to spearhead the effort. She advised the notoriously camera-shy musician to perform at the high-profile Grammy Awards and hit the TV talk-show circuit during a year that he was launching a new record and national tour and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The self-deprecating Ms. Lippin credited Prince himself for coming up with the ideas, such as dropping some of his trademark explicit songs from his live performances and getting Regal Cinemas and AEG to simulcast his shows at theaters across the country. But it was Ms. Lippin who put much of the plan into action, say those close to the musician, including the ground-breaking effort to dole out copies of his CD with tickets to his concerts and having those units counted by Nielsen SoundScan as part of the total sold.

Ms. Lippin told Ad Age in 2005 that she had "a 3-minute interview" with Prince on the phone when he asked to hire her and she just as quickly accepted. "I had a feeling it would be a real professional adventure," she said then.

Prince's CD "Musicology" went platinum, and he racked up the top tour in 2004 with $87.4 million in sales, more than Madonna, Metallica and Celine Dion.

Hallmark's CD program
With the Hallmark Gold Crown stores, Ms. Lippin helped launch a program that cut exclusive CDs from well-known artists, creating another avenue for selling music. CDs from James Taylor and George Strait went platinum, and those from Michael Buble, Martina McBride and Michael McDonald were certified gold and Hallmark's 4,200 retailers became a force in music marketing.

"She was the epitome of a publicist who got the marketing and corporate side and the creative side," said Teri Brown, president of the TBA Network, who works with Hallmark on the CD program. "And it wasn't just all about business. From the minute we started working with her, we felt like we had a brand new friend. She was sensitive and kind and thoughtful."

Before the Lippin Group, Ms. Lippin worked at MCA Records and Elton John's start-up company Rocket Records as well as at RSO Records, where she handled PR for the Bee Gees and the label's film projects like "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease."

She's survived by her husband and daughter, Alexandra, who's a senior account executive at the Lippin Group. The Lippins plan a private service and are working to establish a foundation in Ms. Lippin's name for the study of rare cancers.
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