“There are forever copyright violators who sell unlicensed Bob Marley products. There are always those who think they can get away with it and that’s why we have to sue them without exception,”says Orly Marley, the Israeli wife of David (Ziggy) Marley, son of legendary Reggae star Bob Marley. Orly is also Ziggy’s manager.
After 13 years with the Hollywood-based talent and literary agency William Morris, where she scored some major brand contracts for celebrities, Orly took over the management of her husband’s record label, Tuff Gong Worldwide. Aside from promoting his upcoming world tour (which includes a performance at the London Olympics) she promotes various business initiatives associated with her husband, such as the writing and publishing of his “Marijuana Man” comic books and the promotion of the Ziggy Marley Organic food brand.
Previously, Orly was in charge of franchising and royalty collection for the New York-based family business, House of Marley, which merchandises the Bob Marley brand. She is now a consultant for the company.
“It’s a large, complex business and it’s not easy working with the family,” she admits.
The biographical movie about Bob Marley is scheduled to premier on April 20 and is expected to set off a surge in demand for the Reggae legend’s music and products. Hilco Consumer Capital, the private equity fund that owns the Bob Marley merchandise franchise, estimated in 2009 that global sales would soar to one billion dollars; however, out of this figure, $600 million are chalked up to unlicensed sales.
Orly was born in Israel to Iranian expatriates. When she was three-years-old, her father was assigned to a position in Iran and the family left the Jewish state. When Orly was 14 the family moved again, this time to Los Angeles.
After graduating from college, Orly began working for the Center for Jewish Education and went on to become a junior assistant in the giant music department of leading talent agency William Morris (currently named WME.) Her experience as personal assistant to Michael Jackson’s parents and brother, Randy, no doubt went a long way towards promoting her career.
After a three-month trial period at William Morris, she began noticing new opportunities at the veteran agency.
“William Morris had the largest and most veteran advertising department in the industry but no one dealt with rock star endorsements and accounts,” she said. Her initiative eventually led to a separate department in the advertising section and her promotion to the new unit’s director.
Although speaking no Spanish, Orly started to close deals in the Hispanic music market – she got Corona Beer to endorse the concerts of Mexico’s favorite star, Luis Miguel, while also coupling Enrique Iglesias with Pepsi Cola and Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek with cosmetics giant Avon.
Orly’s success with the Latin market soon spilled over to the African-American market, including achievements such as the Ray Charles milk commercial; meanwhile, she also obtained accounts with Caucasian rock stars such as Sheryl Crow.
However, Orly’s biggest achievement was obtaining a contract for singer/actress Queen Latifah as the new face of Procter and Gamble’s Cover Girl makeup brand even before Latifah made her debut as an actress.
“I begged Procter and Gamble to book her for a private concert,” she recounts. “I flew her out to New Orleans and they loved her. Six months later the deal was signed and the relationship has been going on for the past 10 years.”
Marley also launched a plus-size lingerie line for Wall Mart – Curvation – with Latifah as its spokesmodel. The lingerie line later expanded into a clothing collection. “I put 3-4 years into it and they had to do a lot of trials with her because she didn’t have a clean image,” she says.
Marley says that William Morris did not consider integrating its advertising department with the music department: “They weren’t familiar with the music industry, didn’t know who Queen Latifah was and didn’t really care.”
“At the time, Hollywood agencies were not handling rock star accounts and the ethnic market was a niche market. Today it’s mainstream,” she says.