Senior Political Editor
Miles Copeland Biography by Aaron Stipkovich
The Long Version
When Miles Axe Copeland III was born on May 2, 1944, there was a very bright star in the sky, though no one is quite certain which star it was. There were also V-1 and V-2 rockets dropping in the near vicinity, as it was the height of the World War II blitz of London. Miles’ father, Miles Axe Copeland, Jr., was stationed in England in the American army doing counter-intelligence for the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services), where he met and married Miles’ mother, Lorraine Adie, who was in British Intelligence S.O.E (Special Operations Executive). Miles’ passport shows his birth date as April 2 because father Miles made a mistake on the original application. Throughout life, Miles has had surprise birthday parties thrown on April 2 and people wish him happy birthday one month early. Rarely has anyone, except close family, wished him happy birthday on May 2. (The psychological damage done to him due to this fluke is unknown).
After the war, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where father Miles and a small nucleus of intelligence officers were given the task of organizing a central intelligence gathering organization combining the best of the various forces intelligence corps including the O.S.S. This resulted in the foundation of the C.I.A. In 1948, he was sent to Damascus, Syria as the CIA operative with the title “Culture Attaché.” While in Damascus, he was directly involved in the overthrow of the Syrian government, the first overthrow of a foreign government by an U.S. government operative using covert means. While in Damascus, young Miles became fluent in Arabic, which has come in handy recently with his launch into World Music, particularly music emanating from the Middle East. Apparently losing some of this aptitude over the years, Miles’ current Arabic fluency is convincing only to those who don’t speak a word of Arabic. He is, however, quite proficient in French.
The family then alternated between Middle East posts and Washington D.C. In 1953, father Miles Jr. was loaned by the C.I.A. to Gamal Abdul Nasser (President of Egypt) to organize the Egyptian secret intelligence, The Mukabarat. He soon became Nasser’s closest western advisor. It was here that Lorraine Copeland took up archeology and Miles III took up an interest in collecting anything ancient, from mummy parts to coins. It was also here that young Miles became friends with Col. Hasan Tuhami, Nasser’s machine gun toting bodyguard who lived next door. In later years, this friendship became extremely useful as Mr. Tuhami became Vice Prime Minister of Egypt and came to the rescue of The Police, whose equipment was stuck in Egyptian customs, jeopardizing a concert at the Cairo University that night. Father Miles’ exploits are recounted in three books: Game of Nations, The Real Spy World and his autobiography, The Game Player. Extensive additional coverage can be found in Hugh Wilford’s book “Americas Great Game” released at the end of 2013.
From 1957-68 the Copeland family was stationed in Beirut, Lebanon during the hey-day of that city. Miles attended high school at the American Community School where he was president of his senior class. Along with his archeologist mother, he further developed his fascination for ancient civilizations, especially their art and architecture. This interest took him to travel widely throughout Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. During the summer breaks, he taught judo, having previously earned a first-degree black belt. He was the first person ever to put on a judo exhibition for Lebanese television, his first television appearance. He was also presented with a license to teach Judo to the Lebanese Army. He accepts no responsibility for the ineffectiveness of that army in subsequent years.
From 1962-66, he attended Birmingham Southern College (receiving his B.A. in History and Political Science) in Birmingham, Alabama, the birthplace of his father and home to various Copelands (cousins, grandmother, etc.). He spent one semester at American University in Washington, D.C. (the Washington semester program), studying the workings of the US government up close and personal. From 1966-69, he attended the American University of Beirut, earning his M.A. in Economics. Courses focused largely on how to bring a third world country into the 20th century (without huge oil revenues). Meanwhile, times were strange in Beirut as the seeds of civil war were finding soil and at one point, Miles and other Americans were secretly whisked out of the country for their own protection, returning months later when deemed “relatively safe.”
He promoted his first music concert at the American University in 1968, the first “psychedelic” style happening in Beirut (without the use of drugs of course). This caught the attention of a local Lebanese concert promoter who was soon to bring a British pop group to perform in Beirut and wanted to beef up the show with some of Miles’ production ideas, which included projection, black lights, and “go-go” girls. The British group, Rupert’s People, performed all summer and came to rely on Miles to save them from the perfidy of the promoter and general un-togetherness. Miles soon discovered he was good at this and loved the challenge. Summer over, Rupert’s People returned to England, plotting how to rope this energetic American into helping them on their home turf.
In 1968, he formed his first business partnership, Middle East Security Consultants, with his close friend, Amr Ghaleb, son of Egypt’s Ambassador to Lebanon (known to run the largest spy network in Lebanon). Various incidents caused both the CIA local chief and Ambassador Ghaleb to put an end to this enterprise. Of particular embarrassment was Miles’ unfortunate habit of answering the phone, “CIA, how can we help you?”
It should be interjected here that at this point, one could have assumed Miles would move into a career in international politics, Middle East business, or even the CIA, following in the footsteps of his colorful father. Early on his father had decided that exposing his children to the peccadilloes and intrigues of the real world- whether they were then interested or not- would impart by osmosis, perception, instinctive understanding, and, hopefully, a real world wisdom that would come in handy in later years. This was not too difficult when one’s “hobnobbing” circle included over the years: President Nasser of Egypt (“leader of the Arab World”), Kim Philby (Britain’s most famous spy who ended up as a general in the KGB), Adnan Khasochggi (famous arms dealer and general wheeler dealer), as well as countless lesser and behind the scenes personages of power, intrigue, and general skullduggery. The family Sunday lunch was more likely than not to feature discussions of what the Sudanese Liberation Army was up to (Father Miles having taken Miles III to a meeting with them in Washington) or which military leader was likely to come out on top in Ghana politics.
But no, Miles the elder made it clear to Miles the younger, soon to be graduating from college, that a career in the CIA should be furthest from his thoughts. “It will disappoint and frustrate you and there’s no money in it,” he cautioned. He had come to realize that there were two powerful forces working against the CIA: one coming from the “left” and one from the “right.” The “left” was generally hostile to the CIA and opposed behind the scenes skullduggery on moral grounds, even if in the interests of the U.S.-- basically the old “the ends do not justify the means” argument. The “right” was basically and unabashedly anti-intellectual. When father Miles was involved in setting up the CIA in its earliest days, recruitment focused on finding people who were experts on or had firsthand knowledge of their subject. Staff for the “Russian Desk” should speak and read Russian, for instance. College professors and recent immigrants were obvious choices. They would have not only knowledge, but also perception. As the Vietnam War progressed, the CIA became more “operations” oriented (covert actions), rather than intelligence-gathering, which meant more and more recruitment of military types. The military mind is historically suspicious of the intellectual and certainly suspicious of the immigrant who may harbor secret sympathies for the homeland. As the military mind set eventually “took over,” it now became policy to put people on “Russian Desk” who would have no connection at all to Russia- could not speak the language, etc.- so there was no danger of latent sympathies. This “safe” policy obviously had its drawbacks (to put it mildly), as we have seen from recent events wherein the CIA and, hence, the US government was taken by surprise by huge international events, and has generally operated on in the dark or with completely wrong information. As father Miles’ fears turned out to be justified, it is fortuitous he completely discouraged his son from a career in government. Besides, he wanted his sons to make REAL money, something he never did. Also, as US law does not permit foreign-born citizens to become President and Miles Copeland III was born in London, why go into a job where you can never be top man?
Finishing with college and having become somewhat disenchanted with developments in the Middle East, Miles rejoined the family who had subsequently set up base in London, England. Here, he reunited with Rupert’s People, who launched him on a crash course in the music business. Alas, it became apparent as Miles was becoming “educated” that the day of the “pretty boy” pop group like Rupert’s People was over, being supplanted by the scruffy musician-oriented progressive rock era.
One night at a club in northwest London, Miles met two such “progressive rock” musicians and became inspired to help them form a group. The result was Wishbone Ash, which became a successful band that eventually led Miles to sign Climax Blues Band, Renaissance, Al Stewart, Joan Armatrading, Curved Air, and Caravan. Wishbone’s first LP went top 30 and they were voted Best New Band by the major U.K. music press. The band’s third LP was unanimously voted Album of the Year in the U.K. Wishbone Ash, and later Miles’ other clients, made numerous tours of the U.S., making Miles an expert in every aspect of touring British bands in the U.S. market.
During this first period of Miles’ career, he formed his first record label, BTM (British Talent Managers) Records, became partners in a UK concert booking agency, which first employed brother Ian back fresh from Vietnam, and started a music industry magazine, College Event, keeping his name out of it via a front man editor so he could write glowing articles about all his artists. Coincidentally, the magazine revolutionized concert booking in the UK simply by publishing regular lists of touring artists, their average fees, who their booking agent was, and the phone numbers. This eliminated a whole layer of middlemen who up to that time bought and sold artists from agent to agent, promoter to promoter because they knew who was who and how to get hold of them.
Also in this period, Miles befriended a brash, eager young New York lawyer unhappy in a sleepy law firm. Seeing in him a possible exit scenario, he talked Miles into setting up a New York office with him in one room and Miles in another. That lawyer was the now-legendary Allen Grubman and the office; the beginning of what is now the world’s most powerful music business law firm.
In 1975, Miles embarked on a major moving festival tour throughout Europe, much like today’s Lollapalooza, called “Startrucking 75,” which featured most of his acts, plus Tina Turner, Lou Reed and John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. The first of its kind, Startrucking was, in concept, a success, but it was a financial quagmire that forced Miles to dissolve his management company and start again. The final straw occurred on the last several shows when Lou Reed failed to show up as he had locked himself in a bathroom in New Zealand and there was no indication of when he would come out.
This comeuppance proved to be an invaluable lesson in life. Namely, what goes up, can also go down, and when down, one really finds out who one’s friends are. One consequence was Miles was now stuck in England and had to give up his office in New York. He also gave up the magazine, record company, and the booking agency partnership. Miles’ way back up coincided with the punk explosion in the United Kingdom where he found an affinity because the punk rockers didn’t care that Miles no longer had any money. They just wanted someone to pay attention to them, and Miles did.
During this anarchic period, 1977-79, Miles acted in various roles as agent, manager, producer, and record company (founding Illegal Records, Deptford Fun City Records and Step Forward in 1977) for almost every act in the punk/new wave scene: The Sex Pistols (as agent for the first and only European tour), The Clash (for about three weeks), Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Cherry Vanilla, Generation X (with Billy Idol), Blondie (being the first to bring the group to the U.K.), Television, John Cale, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and many more.
The depth of his relationships in the punk scene made him the obvious choice to executive produce the first movie dedicated to the scene, Michael White’s, “Urgh! A Music War,” which still airs occasionally on TV around the world. His office also became the headquarters for the Rolling Stone magazine of the punk movement, Sniffing Glue, the most famous and influential fanzine of the day. With Miles’ help, the fanzine grew from selling a few hundred copies to a 20,000 circulation accomplished largely by hard work, word of mouth, and a unique product at the right time and the right place.
Creating Firstars Management, he was manager for Squeeze and for his brother Stewart’s new band, The Police. Miles recorded John Cale, Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, Chelsea, The Cortinas, Sham 69, The Cramps, The Fall, Alternative TV and both The Police’s and Squeeze’s first singles.
In 1978, he recorded The Police’s first album and, after hearing Roxanne, decided that the group would require the distribution of a major company. By making A & M Records an offer they couldn’t refuse, The Police were signed to that company. Miles then independently financed the group’s first U.S. tour, which sent word of mouth wheels in motion and which subsequently saw the group become the hottest band in the world. In The Police, Miles found three individuals with the same positive energy and lack of commitment to old ways of doing things that he had. No idea was too crazy to at least consider. All four of them- Sting, Andy, Stewart, and Miles- recognized early on it was their combination of contrasts- merger of things that “shouldn’t” belong together from the music mixture of punk, pop, jazz, and reggae to their unique stripped down touring style- that made them different. When Miles dreamed up the title of the first album to encapsulate the essence of what was going on, “Outlandos d’amour” (combining outlaw-commandos of love), it was immediately adopted. Miles went on to title the next two albums, “Regatta de Blanc” and “Zenyatta Mondatta.” Miles’ original title for the third LP was “Trimondo Blondomina” (three blondes conquering three worlds), but it was a bit too much for Sting. But in truth, the group had, in fact, conquered all three worlds. They were the first Western group to play in India and one of the very few to do Egypt. They re-opened Greece to Rock & Roll after years of military dictatorship. The Police performed to huge, ecstatic crowds in Argentina and Chile. Much of this was captured in “Police in the East” and “Police Around the World” videos. Meanwhile, a monthly magazine was launched in the UK titled, “The Police,” which reached a circulation of over 100,000, and featured photos of The Police in these various exotic and picturesque locales. Photo credits were more often than not: Miles Copeland III.
The success of The Police and the novel methods used to break them enabled Miles to talk Jerry Moss (head of A&M Records) into distributing a U.S. version of his U.K. labels with A & M in the United States, and I.R.S. Records was born. In the next few years, the company had hits with The Buzzcocks, The Beat, The Cramps, Wall of Voodoo, Timbuk 3, R.E.M. and a number one album with the all-girl group, The Go-Gos. This album ended up as the number one seller in the U.S. for the entire year. This formula established the label as one of the most innovative in the business, and, at the same time, The Police rose to greater and greater heights, giving Miles and I.R.S. an immense profile.
On July 2, 1982, Miles was the front page of the UK Marketing Week magazine with the headline “The Empire Built on Rock.” This period featured many articles in the press detailing his exploits, style, accomplishments, even some scurrilous ones associating him with various movie starlets. All this served to reinforce the idea “don’t believe everything you read.” Miles also now learned firsthand the meaning of his father’s joking advice: “don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” The media’s propensity to exaggerate and embellish, whether positive or negative, is worth fully appreciating (and using to one’s advantage).
Looking back on the I.R.S. legacy, it becomes apparent that not only was the label influential in marketing music, but it ended up populating the business with a surprisingly large number of top executives who got their start there and who credit Miles with launching their careers. Another major success Miles had was with The Bangles, whom he managed from their early beginnings until several months before the group’s dissolution. In 1986, the all-girl group had the number one worldwide hit of the year, “Walk Like An Egyptian.” Though Miles had always seen this song as a smash hit, it was not considered a single either by the group's U.S. nor UK record companies. Miles couldn’t talk the U.S. company into releasing it, but did manage to cajole the UK company into releasing it as the fourth single. It took off immediately as a virtual worldwide phenomenon.
By coincidence, this period also witnessed the beginning of MTV and Miles was one of the first to recognize the fledgling networks potential. The Police became the first artist to be sponsored by MTV and Miles became the first (and until now only) to have his record company produce its own show on MTV, the IRS Cutting Edge. This novel show ran for five years and was the first to expose many of the decade’s later stars on television.
Also in the world of television Miles developed Jools Holland, the young keyboard player from Squeeze, into a major TV host/personality. Believing Jools had that special something; he talked The Police into using him as the host on their upcoming TV special. It worked for The Police AND for Jools, landing him in a five-year contract as host on British television’s Channel 4 music show, “The Tube.” After “The Tube” had run its course, Jools continued to be very much in demand. At one point, Miles had him commuting back and forth across the Atlantic (on the Concorde of course) hosting a Sunday TV show for Lorne Michaels (producer of Saturday Night Live) in New York and a BBC music show in London on Wednesdays. Jools continues to be a music host icon on British TV with his show “Later With Jools Holland.”
Meanwhile, on a parallel and symbiotic path, the third Copeland brother, Ian, was going from strength to strength as the premiere booking agent of the new wave. Calling his agency Frontier Booking International (FBI), he was soon booking all of Miles’ bands, plus a host of others. His exploits are recounted in his notorious autobiography published by Simon and Schuster, “Wild Thing.”
Miles has been a keynote speaker at the New Music Seminar and the Juno Awards and has been featured speaker at South by Southwest. In England, he was given a one-hour program for Channel 4 Television titled “Miles Copeland's England,” aired nationally in prime time where Miles spoke about the good and bad sides of the United Kingdom, a fairly notorious program in that country, and apparently a favorite of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The program was picked up by Danish television as well as by Norwegian television who liked its capitalist sentiments. Interestingly, the show was scheduled for another airing on Channel 4, but was pulled after intense lobbying by several left-wing members of the programming board fearing it would have “undue influence” on the upcoming national elections. It is rumored that Miles was somewhat disappointed at this turn of events as the Conservative Party could now claim victory without Miles’ help. He also made numerous other television appearances in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. He has been featured in four of VH-1 “Behind The Music” programs on The Police, Sting, The Go-Gos and The Bangles, plus several programs on R.E.M for British television.
In 1984, The Police went into hibernation and Miles carried on managing Sting through seven solo albums, as well as work with brother Stewart as one of the major soundtrack composers in the movies today plus his interests in various bands, Animal Logic (with Stanley Clarke), Oysterhead (with Trey Anastasio and Les Claypool), and projects with Andy Summers, the third member of The Police. He launched Stewart’s major current business, film soundtracks, by securing the score for him on Frances Ford Coppola's “Rumblefish.”
I.R.S. Records moved to MCA with hits that included Belinda Carlisle, the 1989 number one hit album from The Fine Young Cannibals and highly successful albums from R.E.M. (1982 through 1988). In the 1990, I.R.S. joined the EMI family and had hits with Concrete Blonde, Stan Ridgeway, dada, and #1 hits in the U.K. with Pato Banton and Doctor and the Medics. Another signing was Torch Song containing William Orbit. Quickly realizing that William was the magic of the group and a production genius, Miles encouraged him to produce other IRS artists, thereby launching William’s producing career. ( William produced Madonna.)
Miles broadened the base of the company in 1987 to take in films with I.R.S. Media, Inc., and has acted as Executive Producer for over twenty-five films to date beginning with the company’s first film, “The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II,” “The Metal Years” (directed by Penelope Spheeris), “One False Move” (directed by Carl Franklin, written by Billy Bob Thornton, and chosen as the Best Movie of 1992) and “Tom and Viv,” which was nominated for two Academy Awards (1995). Miles himself appears in one of the films, “Bank Robber” with Patrick Dempsey as a TV evangelist, a role he felt particularly suited to.
The film division was closed in 1996 to re-focus the company back to its core business of music. As a footnote, Miles also appeared in two memorable scenes in Sting’s film, “Bring on the Night.”
Music publishing has always been a core business for Miles. IRS Music, Illegal Songs, and Bugle Songs operate in London and Los Angeles. Miles created and hosted an annual songwriter’s retreat bringing together writers and artists from all over the world to his 14th century castle in the Dordogne region of France. This led to hits for platinum selling artists such as Celine Dion, Aerosmith, Jars of Clay, Toby Keith, Aaron Tippin, Keith Urban, and Jon Bon Jovi. Attendees have included Cher (who claims the retreat was one of the greatest experiences of her life), Carole King, Ted Nugent, Jeff Beck, Jon Bon Jovi, Hanson, Keith Urban and many more. After the events of September 11 and the general downward spiral of the music business which affected publishing as well, the songwriter retreats terminated. In 2011 the US performing rights society ASCAP commissioned Miles to resurrect the retreat as an ASCAP retreat and as of 2014 it is heading into its 4th annual event.
In 1988, in the U.K., he joined with booking agent veteran Phil Banfield, purchased several other agencies, and created what became the third largest booking agency in Europe, CODA, representing a wide array of artists from dance to pop to rock and whose roster includes Zucchero, Jeff Beck, Scissor Sisters, Supertramp, Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance, Bellydance Superstars, and Emma Shapplin to name a few of the over one hundred artists represented. The company was particularly strong in the DJ and dance market fluctuating between 1 and 2 in that market.
Along with his brothers, Stewart and Ian, Miles was honoree and recipient of the Humanitarian Award from the AMC Cancer Research Center in 1985. The awards program noted:” Seventeen years ago, the first AMC Humanitarian Award went to Judy Holliday, a brilliant musical star and actress. Tonight, we are proud to continue the tradition and honor Miles, Ian, and Stewart Copeland and their famous, and often times infamous, contributions to the music/entertainment industry. Early in each of their individual careers, the Copeland Brothers were considered mavericks- the new frontiersman. Miles, attending to music management; Ian, involved as a music agent; and, Stewart, a talented composer, engaged as a drummer in The Police- all were iconoclasts. While they were bucking the established institution, practices and attitudes of the music industry, they were on the cutting edge of pioneering “new music” into the United States. Their methods, once scorned, are now imitated. It is fitting that we pay tribute to the Copeland Brothers and their pioneering spirit. "
Billboard Magazine has also acknowledged him with an award for his contributions to the music world. In the U.K., during The Police years, he organized and ran, together with British M.P. (Member of Parliament) Anthony Steen, The Outlandos Trust, which donated a portion of Police’s earnings to many youth music projects throughout Britain. He has also supported Sting and Trudie Styler's Rainforest Foundation.
In 1997, when EMI closed a number of labels, including I.R.S., in a major consolidation effort, Miles established the independent label ARK21 distributed by EMI worldwide. The roster included Waylon Jennings, Leon Russell, Liquid Soul, Beautiful South, Human League, Belinda Carlisle, Paul Carrack, Howard Jones, Alannah Myles, Tony Williams and Paul Thorn plus Pangaea Records (co-owned by Sting and devoted to soundtracks including “Leaving Las Vegas,” “The Object of My Affection,” “The Mighty,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and “Red Planet”). In 2001, Pangaea became a wholly owned subsidiary of ARK21.
ARK21 moved distribution to Universal in 1999, now the world’s number one record distributor. Initial success was achieved with “The Thomas Crown Affair” soundtrack on the Pangaea label. , the company released the Moody Blues Live on the ARK21 label, which was also a PBS special. Other unique and critically acclaimed albums were the soundtracks to the IMAX films “Everest,” featuring the music of George Harrison, “Dolphins,” featuring the music of Sting, and “Journey Into Amazing Caves,” featuring the music of The Moody Blues.
Married in 1989 to Argentinean Adriana Corajoria, currently a Somatic Experiencing Practioner and Doctor of Psychology specializing in developmental neurobiology. The Copelands have three children, Miles Axe IV, Aeson Armstrong, and Axton Emerson who reside in Los Angeles and Chateau Marouatte in France.
This marriage and the prevalence of the Spanish language in the Copeland household fostered an interest in the Latin Music market, particularly Rock en Español. Consequently, Miles found himself one of the few Anglos paying attention to this exciting new musical hybrid. He released Manu Chao’s first solo album “Clandestino” , Heroes Del Silencio, Mano Negra and El Gran Silencio, plus a compilation of the top Rock en Español stars from throughout Latin America performing Spanish language versions of The Police songs on “Outlandos D’ Americas.”
In 1998 Miles became influenced by the Raï music movement in Algeria and France, which led him to encourage the collaboration of Raï Superstar Cheb Mami with Sting on Desert Rose from Stings’ Brand New Day album. This became a worldwide super hit and was performed at the Superbowl and Grammys (which was the first time Arabic was heard at both these events). Ark 21 released Cheb Mami’s Meli Meli album in the U.S. in October 1999. This was followed by Khaled, Rachid Taha, Faudel and a number of other superstar Arab artists, including Kazem Al Saher, Ragheb Alame and Hakim.
September 1999 saw the re-entry into the market of Sting with his new album, Brand New Day. This album and the world tour (October 1999 thru April 2001) had Miles and the company heavily involved in all aspects of Sting. The album sold 9 million copies worldwide. The tour grossed 70 million. Unwittingly Miles virtually revolutionized the use of corporate advertising by a unique deal with Jaguar to promote the Desert Rose single. Upon first viewing the video for Desert Rose, Miles noticed that the Jaguar car inadvertently used came off as good as the song did. He immediately tracked down the advertising account executive for Jaguar and offered the video in return for a major TV campaign that advertised Stings song and album. The result was a fourfold sales jump for Sting AND Jaguar. This synergistic marriage of art and commerce has become the ultimate model that everyone has been trying to emulate ever since. A full chapter is devoted to it in “Madison & Vine” by Scott Donaton (McGraw-Hill).
Many corporations had bad experiences working with music personalities and their entourages. Musicians by nature are suspicious and anti-establishment. Most would not believe there was actually promotion or image enhancing-potential to be had; only money. The Sting Jaguar commercial changed this forever. Miles’ knack of marrying art and commerce to mutual advantage led to a number of lucrative speaking engagements, something Miles likes to do and seems to be good at. As a manager, publisher, record exec and agent for other acts, he found it a refreshing challenge to be an “act” himself.
Late 2001 saw the CD releases of Trans Global Underground, Shabaz, Oojami, Shani, Zohar and the legendary Rachid Taha. The company became an important source of world music in the USA, featuring artists from all over the Middle East, Persia, Greece, Italy, France, India, Africa, Spain, Turkey, North America, and Latin America.
Firstars Management also expanded by signing French pop opera star Emma Shapplin, the Moody Blues, the Anglo-Latin rap artists Delinquent Habits, and Greek opera star, Mario Frangoulis. Emma Shapplin’s album was released by ARK21 in May 2002 reaching number one in Israel, Greece, Turkey and Canada with Top Tens in Holland, Argentina and a host of other countries.
September 11 was a dramatic shock to Miles beyond the sorrow of those tragic events. The next day he had two Arab stars with an entourage of Arab musicians (28 in all) booked to fly to the U.S. for an eagerly anticipated tour. Needless to say, neither Hakim from Egypt, nor Khaled from Algeria felt it appropriate to tour the U.S.A., aside from the fact there were now no flights. The tour, which had virtually already sold out, had to be moved to March 2002 and thankfully preceded without a hitch. The start date coincided with the World Economic Forum being held in New York City, hosted by Mayor Giuliani and then-Vivendi head, Jean-Marie Messier. Miles, who seems to have become known as Mr. World Music and Mr. Cultural Diversity, was asked to organize duets for the concert being held for the event. The brief: cultural diversity and different cultures working together. Miles called Israeli superstar Noa to join Khaled in singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” in Hebrew, Arabic and English. This Arab-Israeli, Jewish-Muslim collaboration brought the house down and remains one of the most powerful music moments in Miles’ colorful career. Also on the bill, Miles paired Hakim with Puerto Rican superstar Olga Tañon singing an Arabic-Spanish duet written at the previous year’s songwriting event in France. So powerful was this song, that the pair were invited to perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York for the One World Jam (for cultural diversity) that resulted in the second major Arab star singing on mainstream U.S. television.
Following in this tradition, Miles, with the help of producer, Narda Michael Walden, created a new duet for Hakim with soul icon, James Brown. Released on Hakim’s Lela CD July 2006 on the IRS World label.
2001 and 2002 saw great changes in the music business with a great deal of debate surrounding digital rights, Napster, artist relations with labels, piracy, CD burners, etc. Many articles appeared expounding all sorts of notions usually to the detriment of the record companies. Though Miles has had strong and vocal opinions about many aspects of the record business, he saw no value in killing the Golden Goose with unfair and misrepresented attacks. Accordingly, he wrote several articles for various magazines that were picked up on various websites including the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). In trying to bring common sense into the argument as well as the real facts, Miles found himself one of the few willing to be outspoken in defense of the industry. This caught the attention of the RIAA, who asked him to join them in Sacramento for a California Senate hearing on artist rights. Miles was asked to be the industry spokesman at the press conference, while Don Henley represented the other side.
Miles admits to a certain amount of awkwardness at being lumped in as an industry man, as most of his life has involved in pushing artists interests. His basic view is that if the industry is to be attacked. It should be based on facts, not wild misinformation and supposition, and it should DEFINITELY not be done in a way to weaken the industry’s ability to protect BOTH artists, company rights, assets being besieged by the public’s new demand, and ability to get music for FREE. Subsequent events proved Miles to be correct.
2002 Miles entered into a recording venture with Egypt’s premier record company, Alam el phan, which brought the company a host of Arabian superstars: Amr Diab, Nawal Zoughbi, Moustafa Amar, Samira Said, Mohamed Mounir, Ragheb Alame, etc.
Events in the Middle East saw Miles in demand as a spokesman with views on the Arab perspective. He appeared twice on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect as well as a number of radio shows. In fact, Miles started his own two-hour talk show once a week on KRLA from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Monday for three months. As one would expect, the Palestine/Israeli conflict was a prominent theme with Miles attempting a dialogue between both sides. One show featured calls from Israelis in Tel Aviv describing their situation; others featured Palestinians. Unfortunately, Miles did not achieve a peace initiative.
In his continuing support for charitable causes, particularly ones focusing on the plight of the peoples in the third world, ARK21 released in the U.S. a unique compilation album for the Sabera Foundation, a charity in Calcutta, India dedicated to orphaned girls. Miles could hardly say no to an impassioned plea from Melanie Griffith who, along with her husband Antonio Banderas, was a major supporter of the charity. Also on the board was Penelope Cruz. The album featured unique tracks from Sting, Ricky Martin, Alanis Morrisette, Elton John, Cher, Luciano Pavarotti, Alejandro Sanz, Bob Dylan, Antonio himself, and more. Miles released the album in the U.S. in November 2002 and no sooner had he done so than the stars, reacting to serious accusations of mismanagement at the charity all pulled support from the project teaching Miles a valuable lesson in what not get involved with in the future.
In December 2002, Miles was in Moscow with Emma Shapplin for the first ever Christmas concert extravaganza in Russia. Emma performed with Placido Domingo & Jose Carraras and a 380-member orchestra and choir.
Always willing to share his view, experiences, and advice, in may 2002 miles was keynote speaker at the EAT'M conference (Emerging Artists & technology In Music) and in January 10, 2003, was the keynote speaker at the Dutch music conference, Eurosonic Noorderslag Seminar. He has lectured and sat on entertainment business panels for the Beverly Hills Bar Association, Pollstar, Musician’s Institute, UCLA, University of Montana, Vanderbilt University, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
With his interest in Middle Eastern music and the obvious challenge of coming up with a way to break into the US market, Miles was on the lookout for a vehicle ever since the success of Sting’s “Desert Rose.” That song gave clear indication of the potential for an American audience to accept this sort of music on a massive scale. By chance, Miles organized a promotion for the release of Oojami’s fortuitously titled, “Bellydance Breakbeats,” album which featured a bellydance competition. The competition was such fun and it pointed to the fact mainstream Anglo audiences would show up to see a dance show as much, if not MORE, so than a pure music show. By putting the two together, perhaps this was the vehicle Miles was looking for.
Consequently, the first half of 2003 saw the creation of a stage show featuring Middle Eastern dance and music. Titled the Bellydance Superstars, the show attracted the attention of the William Morris Agency and Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction, who was organizing Lollapalooza 2003. Needing something different, with female energy and sex appeal, the show was booked for the entire tour performing one show in the afternoon on the second stage and an evening spot on the main stage. This took the art of bellydance to 30 cities performing in front of over 500,000 people the biggest exposure ever for the bellydance art form.
So successful was the concept, Miles and team were energized to take full advantage of what they saw as a rapidly growing interest in the art of bellydance, as well as Arab music. The company embarked on a comprehensive program to create high quality products better than anything on the market. Instructional DVDs featuring America’s top teachers, performance DVDs featuring American top dancers, bellydance CDs, and a full length feature film American Bellydancer directed by documentary maker, Jonathan Brandeis. See www.bellydancesuperstars.com .
With his major focus now shifting to World Music and the “bellydance business,” Miles entered similar territory he experienced in 1972-78 when he threw his lot in with the punk rock movement. Once again, the mainstream establishment was both bemused and convinced he had lost his marbles. At the same time, the bellydance establishment just like the punk “establishment” in the past, was completely suspicious of an outsider coming in to “ruin” bellydance.
Getting little or no help from the mainstream booking agencies (except in Europe), and most of the established promoters, Miles descended once again into the trenches and booked and largely promoted himself a 58-city tour of North America with the help of his small team and an adventurous tour marketing company in Phoenix, Insight Management, who he met via the Moody Blues. As word spread among the bellydance community that this was the real deal, the tour began to draw crowds and sell out in quite a few cities.
Major front page and double page spread features appeared in such papers as the Vancouver Sun, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Weekly, Eugene Register-Guard, as well as positive coverage in many entertainment magazines. This momentum and positive response was duplicated even more so in Europe for the last half of 2004 with 46 shows in 7 countries, scoring glowing articles in the prestigious UK newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express, and the UK’s number one Sunday paper, The Sunday Times (5 pages), as well as major television appearances in Spain, France, and the UK. Performing on France’s number one rated show, “Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde,” the Bellydance Superstars performed to an audience of 10 million.
The net effect of all this was the growing realization that Miles had, in fact, NOT lost his marbles and if the press coverage was right, he was about to have the hottest dance sensation since Riverdance. By the end of 2004, this “left of center” enterprise had performed over 180 shows to over 700,000 people live and via over 30 television appearances to over 100 million people (not including the China broadcast where accurate numbers are not known). With the extensive bookings and new bookings for 2005, there was no longer any doubt that bellydance as an art form had every chance to succeed in a big way on the “main stage,” and that the Bellydance Superstars had set the ultimate standard as the world’s premiere professional bellydance troupe which they remain to this day.
2005 began with the launch of the full-length feature film documentary, “American Bellydancer,” directed by Jonathan Brandeis and produced (and financed) by Miles. Needless to say the film created quite a controversy in “bellydance land,” and Miles and staff inadvertently became stars of their own movie. Starting as a pure documentary on the fascinating world of bellydance in the US, director Jonathan Brandeis quickly saw that the events surrounding the Bellydance Superstars project and ensuing controversy- their performance in Bali, Indonesia and on Lollapalooza were very much a part of bellydance in the USA today and gave the film a thread to bind all the other footage together. The film performed theatrically from February through April, and be shown at several film festivals, including the Tiburon International Film Festival, San Fernando Valley International Film Festival, Santa Cruz Film Festival and the Beirut International Film Festival.
Also released in the first quarter on DVD, was the Bellydance Superstars Live in Paris filmed at the famed at the Follies Bergeres. This 9-camera shoot stood as the most professional and spectacular presentation of the art of bellydance ever filmed, until the release of the subsequent Bellydance Superstars show DVDs.
Bellydance instructional DVDs featured prominently in 2005 with the BDSS front line stars Jillina, Sonia, and Rachel Brice all releasing product. These were followed in following years with instructionals by Zoe Jakes, Petite Jamilla, Bozenka (Shakira’s bellydance teacher), Sharon Kihara, Issam Houshan (Arab drumming), Kami Liddle, Moria, and Sabah creating some 22 instructional titles in all, plus 3 documentaries, and 10 show and performance DVDs.
Discovering that no video/DVD existed dedicated expressly to women teaching them to defend themselves against a mugger/attacker- and that long time family friend, Joanne Harris, had become America’s Tae kwon do women’s champion while developing a “system” for exercise and self-defense for women- the company created the first in a projected series entitled “Urban Knockout” released in April 2005.
In April of 05 the company began filming the first ever documentary on Arab music in association with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, funded under the “America at the Crossroads” grant. Titled "Dissonance and Harmony", it features top Arab stars, up and comers, plus collaborations with Western artists. The film was a direct result of an invitation by Deputy Secretary of Defense Tory Clark for Miles to come to the Pentagon to advise the Defense Department how to “win hearts and minds in the Middle East”, via his expertise and contacts in the entertainment industry. That meeting was recounted in four pages of Tory Clark’s book “Lipstick On A Pig” published in 2007. The final portion of the film was filmed in Los Angeles with 24 Arab stars and musicians performing at the Roxy with American and Western guest stars. Al Jazeera aired the film throughout the Arab world the month of September, 2008 with Arabic subtitles. PBS in the U.S.A. first released the film on November 2, 2008.
Music CDs remained a major part of the business with albums being commissioned as well as licensed for the American and world market. The majority were in the “world music” arena specializing in Middle Eastern and Western fusions featuring some of the genre’s biggest stars. To create a dedicated home for such music separate from the broad spectrum of music originally released by Ark 21 Records, a new label was launched for the first time using the Copeland name in a title. Copeland International Arts (CIA of course) released the first title in 2006 and now all bellydance, Middle Eastern, world music product was released under this banner. Releases included Zohar, Beats Antique, Oojami, Turbo Tabala, Pentaphobe, Issam Houshan, Bellydance Superstars series, Desert Roses series, Saad Al Soghrier, Hoda, Isa Ghandour, Charbel Rouhana, Amenia, Masters of Bellydance series, and a tribal compilation series.
At the beginning of June 06 Miles launched a 36 part one hour radio show on XM Satellite Radio's channel 29, UPOP. "The Kasbah After Dark With Miles Copeland" aired Monday through Friday at midnight on the East Coast and at 9:pm on the West Coast. It was the first national radio show in the U.S.A. dedicated to Arab Music.
Also in June 06 the company entered the annual bellydance convention business with the launching of Raqs Britianna in Manchester, England. The event featured the teachers of the Bellydance Superstars plus local British bellydance teachers in a weekend event including vending, workshops, open stage all day dancing and a Bellydance Superstars show on Saturday night. In June 07 the event moved to the famous Winter Gardens in Blackpool, England and rated as one of the biggest Bellydance events in all of Europe in this its second year. Raqs Britianna 08 returned to the Winter Gardens for the June 17-18 weekend and another resounding success confirming it as Europe’s biggest bellydance event. The company also created a Tribal dance event intended to be an annual show for that style in Feb 2008, followed with a Los Angeles event and later a Washington DC event. After staging a number of these conventions it became apparent that the work required compared to the financial return did not make sense and the company terminated this line of activity.
By the beginning of 2007 it was apparent that the Bellydance Superstars were making the transition to the mainstream market. Columbia Artists, one of the most prestigious performing arts promoters agreed to sign the show for agency representation taking that burden off Miles’s back. China and the Pacific rim entered the game as champions of the show bringing them to Taiwan and Korea for 8 shows in March and with the success rebooking them for August 2008. The Casino du Monte Carlo rebooked them for another three month run (April – June) and as of the middle of May the BDSS could boast to having performed 470 shows in 18 countries in just under 4 years. The first tour booked by CAMI (Columbia Artists) commenced in the USA in October and proved a great success with virtually every venue rebooking the act for the 08-09 season. With the conclusion of the West Coast portion of the tour in Feb March 08 the BDSS was now firmly established as a mainstream performing arts staple.
April 08 tour of Italy proved to be an unexpected success to everyone except the BDSS with sellout shows in some of Italy’s most beautiful and prestigious venues. A quick jaunt to Dubai on charter jet delivered a stunning show to the first Arab audience the BDSS had ever played to followed at the end of the tour with three sold out shows in Casablanca, Morocco. This brought the show tally to over 500 shows in 20 countries. A Spanish tour in November added Spain as another happening market for the Bellydance Superstars.
Miles was featured as the instructor in one episode of VH1’s Charm School on air in November, 08. He was keynote speaker at the annual Beacon Summit in South West Britain, October 28. The Documentary Channel (U.S.A) began a year of broadcasts of “American Bellydancer” November, 08. PBS aired the film “Dissonance & Harmony” for first broadcast November 2 at 10pm. Direct TV Latin America began airing “American Bellydancer” and “Bellydance Superstars Live in Paris” September, 08 with subsequent shows, “Babelesque”, “Art of Bellydance” also being broadcast all of which achieved very high viewership.
The Bellydance Superstars continued as a focus with the first dates in mainland China with a week in Shanghai at the end of 2008. Notable was the tour of Japan filmed by NHK the major TV station which was aired nationally throughout Japan Feb and Dec 2011, the first time a bellydance show had ever been on Japanese TV. A second tour of Morocco took place in 2011 as well as a 14 city tour of Spain. The company also created a smaller tour version called “Club Bellydance” with 5 dancers. All told the two shows by the end of 2013 had performed 900 shows in 21 countries.
Miles continued to move the company focus to become more and more interested in the broader game of dance as a ticket selling/ merchandise selling touring business in the performing arts world. Music as a royalty based industry where owning a catalog of music that ticked over spinning off royalties was moving towards life support. Lessons learned from the touring Bellydance Superstars show, the web site store, the convention events could surely be applied to other dance arts. Consequently the company contracted with other dance companies that had not developed their internet store and tour merchandise to the extent of the Bellydance Superstars. Working with the management of Tango Pasion, Celtic Crossroads, and Rhythm of the Dance became the first ventures in this direction. This also encouraged the focus on music releases on CIA label towards Tango, Flamenco, Irish and Latin styles in addition to the regular Bellydance releases. The first artist signed was Argentinean ‘neo-tango” group Otros Aires. Also filmed and released was the Celtic Crossroads Live show DVD and the Tango Pasion CD.
The focus on the larger world of dance attracted the attention of TV4 founder Jon Cody who was creating a multi-channel outlet via HULU, Amazon Plus etc. for programming that was not being well served on current TV. A partnership was formed at the end of 2013 to create the “Dance Arts Network” to launch first on HULU in May 2014.
In 2013 The Sky channel broadcast a 4 part series titled “London Calling, The Untold Story of British Pop Music. The 4th part was titled “Master of Puppets” and featured Miles as one of the major music managers who influenced the course of British pop. This was broadcast throughout Europe, South America and Australia.
In 2012-2013 Miles worked with “And Magazine” webzine editor Aaron Stipkovich to act as political editor and air occasional political pieces with special focus on US foreign Policy. In this period he also worked with several TV production companies and book authors working on projects dedicated to espionage, the CIA, Kim Philby etc. It is not surprising therefore while completing the contract with TV4 to create the “Dance Arts Network” Miles was also commissioned to launch a second channel, one dedicated to all things espionage, CIA, MI5, KGB etc. It launches on HULU in June 2014.
Articles of interest include:
- The Sunday Times (October 3, 2004)
- Daily Telegraph (September 28, 2004)
- Daily Express (October 2, 2004)
- Arab American Business (June/July 2004)
- The Middle East (December 2004)
- Arabies Trends (June 2004)
- Los Angeles Times (January 14, 2005)
- Telegraph & Argus,(April 15, 05)
- NorthWest (December 2004)
- The Times (June 21,2005)
- Egypt's Insight (Jan. 05)
- Dinhero (Portugal November 2005)
- Marin Independent Journal (Jan 27, 2006)
- Billboard (Feb. 4 2006)
- Montreal Mirror (March 2-8, 2006)
- Toronto Star (March 8 2006)
- Las Vegas Sun (April 24, 2006)
- Alo Hayati (April-June 2006)
- Tulsa World (Oct. 27 2006)
- La Depeche (Feb 22, 2007)
- Les Nouvelles de Tahiti (Feb 24 2007)
- Taipei Times (March 23, 2007)
- San Francisco Chronicle (April 1, 2007)
- You Magazine (U.K.) Sept 21, 2008
Miles Copeland's most recent 32:
( * = A cover-featured contribution )