KOAR: Tell us about how you got started in the music industry- your first job, position etc…
The Rev: Funny story actually, I got into some trouble with the cops in college and as a result couldnâ€™t move home for the summer. I ended up getting a job moving furniture where I met a guy who DJâ€™d at Michigan State Universityâ€™s radio station. One night they asked him to fill in on the Heavy Metal show and he didnâ€™t know squat about the music and knowing I was a huge fan, he asked if I wanted to come up and pick out the music. I of course I said yes and he let me do a segue over the air. The program director heard me, called in and asked me if I wanted to host the show permanently!! Long story short, a half-year later, I was the program director of a 3500 Watt FM college station. Through WDBM I made tons of contacts in the music business and during my last semester I lead the station to #2 in the ratings 18-34 females and got an offer to move to New Jersey to be an independent radio promoter at the now defunct AIM Marketing. Pretty crazy turn of events!
KOAR: The Syndicate you formed- tell us about the background on the company, departments, services, clients, roster of bands.
The Rev: The story continues, 3 months into my job as director of the Loud Rock Radio department at Aim, my immediate supervisor, Anya Feldman, left for a job at TVT. I didnâ€™t feel like I was qualified to run the department at the time, so I suggested they bring in Marc Meltzer. Marc interviewed and got the job. Within a year we had the department doing more business that it had in years. At the height of our success, the owner of the company decided to disband the company, which left 15 employees out of a job. Marc and I decided to team up with Tracey Zucatti and Jon Landman who were running the College Radio department and Bernie Mueller who ran the Retail Promotions department and do exactly what we were doing at AIM but as the owners of our own company. On December 17, 1997 the AIM offices closed and on January 5, 1998 The Music Syndicate was born. Click to read more
The company began merely as an independent College and Loud Rock radio promotion and marketing company completely run and operated by the 5 owners. Since then we have started an a Street Marketing company, a record label (We Put Out Records), a Commercial Specialty Radio department and Artist Management division which I head up along with Mac. Our management roster includes Thursday, Shadows Fall, God Forbid, Murder By Death and Stretch Arm Strong.
You can also check out http://www.musicsyndicate.com/
KOAR: How has radio promotion changed over the years?
The Rev: When I started doing radio promotions at the College and Metal level it was a pretty cut and dry job, you got records added, played and charted at college stations across the US and Canada by calling them and promoting the releases you were hired on by labels, bands and managers. Nowadays its much more about creating real artist development and establishing a lasting fan base at an underground format. Chart numbers are still a measure of success but we do so much more. We promote catalogue, artist information, websites, tours, national events and anything else a band may be involved with. We go 10 times deeper into the marketing of an artist than we ever did as â€œradio pluggers.ï¿½? The methods have totally changed as well. When I began, you had a call list and phone and if you werenâ€™t on the phone, you werenâ€™t closing the deal. The Metal Radio department at AIM was the first independent promotions company to use email as a form of promotion and communication to get radio familiar with their artists. We were also the first indie to have a website. Who doesnâ€™t have email or a website nowadays? At base, we do the same job but now we do SOOOOOO much more. We have also managed to turn the 1 job in the music business with the highest turn over into a career opportunity. Eric Peltier and Moose who help to oversee our Metal and College departments respectively have been with us since 1998.
KOAR: Why do you think you guys are successful over other radio promotion companies? and how competitive is it in radio promo?
The Rev: Dedication to the job and artist. We are all fans of music here and itâ€™s the passion for the music that drives us to have passion to offer the most passionate and thorough service in the business. Also, there are no bosses here. Everyone is the boss and everyone is the employee. There are no titles, only departments. We split up each department so that everyone in it is well aware of what the other members are doing and so that the job responsibilities only differ in the specifics. That way is someone is out sick or at a meeting or on vacation, anyone else in the department can cover their job. Other than that, we treat our employees with respect, intelligence and dignity while maintaining a fair and fun environment. We urge our employees to be creative on a daily basis and to let us know when they have ideas on how to improve the way we operate. We promote inner growth and if an employee wanted to try something new, we would find a way to embrace that energy and work towards a goal. That is how all the other departments began. People come here, grow here and stay here. Did I mention we have a healthy appetite for fun as well?
KOAR: What do you believe makes for a successful radio campaign?
The Rev: Proper set up and hiring us. I canâ€™t go too deep because that would be like the Colonel telling you the 11 secret herbs and spices. But seriously, its about set up and follow through. You donâ€™t need it but a large bank account and friends in the country of Colombia are never a bad thing to have. Kidding
KOAR: Now lets talk about the management side. You manage 5 artists. Thursday, Shadows Fall, God Forbid,, Murder By Death, Stretch Arm Strong. How did you get started in management?
The Rev: After doing Metal radio for about 3 years I got an itch. I wanted to do more for bands then just get them played on college and metal radio. Iâ€™d watch enough bands sink due to improper marketing or management and thought I could do better. I walked in one day and said to my partners â€œI want to start managing bands because I feel that I have more to give.ï¿½? They replied with â€œok but you canâ€™t do it full time until itâ€™s paying for itself.ï¿½? Which is generally how things get started around here. So I started looking for bands. At the time we were basically consulting Shadows Fall who were about to get signed to Century Media and in fact we even helped them find their way to the label. At a show they played on April Foolâ€™s Day, I told them I was thinking about starting a management company and they asked me to take them on. Boom, that was it. They introduced us to God Forbid who introduced us to Thursday who introduced us to Murder By Death and as for Stretch Arm Strong; I have been a HUGE fan for years and chasing them for management since. The department itself now has 4 members.
KOAR: When and Where did you find Thursday?
The Rev: God Forbid and Thursday mastered their records at the same studio. As we were finishing the God Forbid â€œDeterminationï¿½? record, the Thursday guys showed up to pay their bill. They knew the God Forbids from the New Brunswick, NJ scene and introduced me. They invited me to a show they were playing in NYC the next week and I went. 30 seconds into the show and I knew I had to work with them.
KOAR: What other bands are you currently following, what is the newest band you have taken on?
The Rev: We just started working with Stretch Arm Strong last week. www.stretcharmstrong.net and are really excited about it. In the last year they have toured Pennywise, Rancid, Senses Fail, Good Charlotte, MxPx, Norma Jean and more. They are about to headline Europe and will return to headline the MADE CLOTHING / PETA2 tour. We picked up Murder By Death www.murderbydeath.com last November at the suggestion of Geoff from Thursday. I saw them live one night on tour and was absolutely mystified. I brought Marc, Moose and Jackie (the other members of the management department) out to see them and we all agreed that they were a wonderfully talented and creative bunch of people that we wanted to help them.
KOAR: What makes you want to manage, to take on a band?
The Rev: Loving music and loving people. I majored in Telecommunications and Media in college and minored in Social Science because I love music and I love people. Other than that, creativity, excitement, dedication and understanding are key elements. As far as radio or street marketing it can be any number of reasons but I can assure almost everything we taken involves a high level of passion.
KOAR: Lets talk about the Touring climate today. What is your opinion? All of your bands seem to tour heavily. They performed on Ozzfest, oversees, and with other prominent hardcore metal bands, why are they successful?
The Rev: Unless you are writing adult contemporary hits ALA Kenny G, you had better plan on playing live. Radio is never a guarantee so you have to get to the people. Touring is the one thing a band can control so its vital to get out there and do as much as possible. What makes it better is when you have a band signed to a label that understands tour marketing, thatâ€™s how you win. You cant burn or download a live show and you donâ€™t need to have great distribution to have one so people have to go see it if they want it. The day they can take that away, we have a real problem. No matter what, people love music and they love it live, go find them and give the people what they want. Variety in touring is really important as well. If you are playing the same clubs to the same audiences every tour you do, you arenâ€™t expanding and you arenâ€™t growing. Do it all and do it everywhere.
KOAR: Whats your opinon of the state of the music industry. CD sales declining, digital downloading of music, ect…
The Rev: What bothers me the most is the complaining. These are legitimate gripes but its not like the music business has had to deal with adversity before. What was the cassette? We need to just work harder and together and be sure that our mind is set on the long term. There is no fast way to the top. Itâ€™s also important to keep expenditures smart and not see a need to front load everything. We can all make this work but we have to change the way we do things. Diversify, create, experiment but stay focused. Personally, I am really excited about the music business right now because its forcing people to change. I have an ipod; I have itunes and I LOVE IT. We need to find ways to embrace this and not fight it.
KOAR: Any new music that you love out there?
The Rev: There are lots of great young bands out there. On the metal front, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed, Slipknot and my bands are taking over as the future of heavy metal. On the alternative/ indie front, I am really excited about The Kinison, Poison The Well, Thrice, Every Time I Die, Blindside, Coheed and Cambria and Hundred Reasons from the UK. I feel like hip hop has had its first positive turn in years since the silver age of the 80s with Ludacris, DMX, Jay-Z, Xzibit and Eminem. I love a lot of music so its hard to nail it down and by next week the list could totally change with the exception of Murder By Death, Stretch Arm Strong, God Forbid, Shadows Fall and Thursday!!
KOAR: Whats your take on the trends in major label signings? Where do you see it going? Indies vs. majors, your opionins?
The Rev: Itâ€™s no different than it ever was. Labels smell a trend, they get in, they sign a million and 5 to 10 survive. That will never change but there is now more a chance than there ever was for bands on independent labels to see a certain level of success that they never had before. There are pros and cons to being in either system but no matter what, its what you make of it. You just have to ask yourself what you want before you go try and get something and make sure that you understand what you are getting into and how to work in that system. We donâ€™t fear it because we believe in our bands and we believe in this company. None of us are afraid of change and actually embrace it.
KOAR: Anything else you want to plug?
The Rev: This interview has been brought to you by Quiznoâ€™s delicious subs, Jose Goldstein Roasted Garlic & Chipotle Hot Sauce, the Motor City â€“ my hometown and foundation, Australia â€“ the greatest country and the greatest people on the planet, Vans Skate Shoes, the Fez I bought at Epcot Center, Cedar Point â€“ the worldâ€™s headquarters for roller coasters, Uncle Joeâ€™s tavern in Jersey City, Wile E Coyote and always betting the odds in craps.