Elvis Duran Group media strategist Steven Levine is making the leap to the West Coast, where he will serve as an executive producer and talent coordinator for the Cutting Edge Group’s new episodic, hour-long TV show format based on the 12on12 music brand. Duran, the syndicated iHeartRadio personality, will host the show. Levine has been working with Duran, who broadcasts out of New York’s Z-100, since 2011.
The concept of 12on12 is an exciting new take on exploring the musical DNA of a celebrity act, with Duran highlighting the genesis of a musician’s evolution through examination of twelve songs that mean the most to them. The show will feature surprise guests, performances and interactions with each act – Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Sam Smith, Logic, Niall Horan and Fall Out Boy are already in the mix — presented along with a vinyl record of “twelve seminal songs” complete with customized artwork. Further details are being kept under wraps until closer to the show’s launch later this year, according to Cutting Edge.
“I know the 12on12 project will be a success, I feel it,” Levine tells Variety. “I want to create a new platform that’s different and that an artist is excited to be on. It’s all about creating a unique experience. My hope is that this show will help an artist remember how they achieved their impossible dreams through music and inspire everyone watching to do the same.”
With Duran set to be inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters’ Broadcasting Hall of Fame today (April 9), the stage is set for radio star’s evolution into television host: a role seven years in the making that will finally come to fruition through Levine’s diligence.
Although Levine and Duran have been pitched with many ideas utilizing Duran’s gift of conversation and easy demeanor with musicians, nothing caught the pair’s attention, “until now,” Levine shares. “I always seem to organically bring the right people together. I actually met the team at The Cutting Edge Group through my consulting work. Philip Moross, CEO of The Cutting Edge Group, presented the 12on12 project to us and we were immediately interested. They recognized that Elvis was the only person that had the magic to create the ultimate artist interview as the host. I went to work and rallied our music friends together and have managed to get interest from many of our favorite artists.”
Levine’s symbiotic relationship with Duran and personal perseverance to oversee the project is the secret sauce behind the quiet success of an executive that shies from the limelight, but is the dynamic that pushes his clients forward.
Says Duran: “There’s never a dull moment with Steven. He’s one of the funniest people I know and has a way of turning the ordinary moments into special and memorable ones. He rarely takes ‘no’ for an answer, and works projects for weeks, months, even years, until he gets his intended results. He can make serious business a lot of fun. And he has found a way to turn fun into a successful business.”
That perseverance is evident backstage at most iHeartRadio and Jingle Ball appearances for Duran’s flagship station, Z100. Backstage is where you are most likely to find Levine and Duran, who rarely get a chance to watch the performances live onstage.
“I’ve always been a ‘behind the scenes’ type,” says Levine. “I think it’s important to stay focused on your client and what the main objective is for them. I promised myself I would never be that guy who has an ego, or abused my position. As fabulous as all of the celebrities and events are, the most important part of our job is our listeners on Elvis’ show. You have to hear people’s stories and have compassion for what others are going through. Elvis has made that a foundation for our team, and it really has helped me stay grounded.”
Levine’s nice guy approach is appreciated by artists, who are welcomed to Duran’s show daily free of embarrassing “headline grabbing” questions and a bonus: filmed segments readied for television.
“Steven introduced a successful working artist program on our show which came with a linear on camera interview with one of the high profile TV network entertainment shows (‘Entertainment Tonight,’ ‘Access Hollywood,’ ‘Extra’),” Duran explains. “This way the artist experienced several major media hits in one stop. Afterward, Steven’s machine would immediately grab the best content and send it out to editors and producers far and wide. … Steven has also worked diligently to align with artist management and music labels to ensure all scheduling and messaging fit into their marketing plans. Because of these and other initiatives, Steven has helped set a much higher bar for our interviews, artist relations and media coverage output.”
Levine’s calm demeanor hasn’t gone unnoticed by his colleagues. Yvette Noel-Schure, co-founder of Schure Media Group and longtime public relations executive for Beyonce, has watched Levine grow since offering him advice in his earlier days. “When I think of the people I love and respect the most in this industry, Steven is at the top of the list,” says Noel-Schure. “He is that rare, beautiful human in a room full of busy bodies who stops everything to greet you with a smile, a hug and a joke that you never expected and did not know you needed. … But don’t underestimate his sunny disposition for his only trait. He is a doer, a tenacious planner and purposeful organizer who gets it done.”
“Yvette has picked up the phone many times for me when I just wasn’t getting the answer I wanted and felt discouraged,” Levine shares.” She gave me a piece of advice that’s always in the back of my mind. It’s the three P’s: Passion, Patience, and Persistence. So when it seems impossible or too hard I remember that and focus.”
It was that passion that resulted in Levine’s successful pitch to the “Today Show,” one that seemed out of reach at the time: a filmed, monthly segment with Duran on NBC’s “Kathie Lee and Hoda” hour. Armed with a box of rainbow cupcakes, a “man purse” and a dream, Levine emerged from “Today Show” EP Tammy Filler’s office victorious. What started as just a 60-second song sample of signed and unsigned artists stretched to a ten-minute interview and performance segment.
“The ‘Today Show’ segment came about from Steven’s relentless knocking at NBC’s door,” Duran says. “He knew there were many things I could offer them but music was our specialty. We try to take a typical morning show moment of artist discovery and move it to TV. Very simple. And the impact has been huge.” Among the segment’s key bookings: Alessia Cara, who would go on to win a Grammy for Best New Artist.
Adds Gifford: “Steven is a do-er. If he says he’s going to do something you can take it to the bank that it will be done. He’s become a cherished friend. He’s creative and crazy — my favorite combination!”
With the stars in alignment professionally, Levine’s proudest accomplishment is being “a good guy,” and being nice in a tough industry goes a long way. “I’ve become the person people can call, and they know I’ll listen and see if there’s anything I can do to help,” he says. “I’ve also been proud watching a new artist being discovered, living out a dream that they never thought would happen. It’s about having integrity and giving back, that’s truly the secret to anyone’s success.”