10 Questions with ... Allan Benedict
July 5, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started out in radio while I was in school in Chicago. I got involved in Loyola University's WLUW where I stayed for three years, interned at WBEZ (Chicago's NPR affiliate), and was able to meet a ton of people out East. When I graduated I shipped out to New York, interned at Secretly Group's New York office, spent time at Music Choice, worked radio for The Syndicate for three years, and now have landed at [PIAS].
1. How did you become interested in the record business?
I took a bit of a roundabout way into the record business. When I was in high school I had dreams of writing about music. I was obsessed with Rolling Stone and planned on grabbing a journalism degree and finding my way there. I was at an extracurricular fair during my freshman year in Chicago and WLUW's big pitch was free concert tickets, so naturally that caught my ear. I ended up being super active from the get-go and when the music director at the time was leaving, I got offered the position and stuck around for the next three and a half years. Once I started figuring out the gig, the highlight of my week became getting on the phone and talking about new music with people who loved it as much as I did. I started really diving into where I could go with that and suddenly I was less and less interested in writing. So, once I figured out that helping artists and talking about music could be my job, moving to NY and figuring out a way in was an easy decision.
2. What led you from The Syndicate to join [PIAS] earlier this year?
To put it frankly, the opportunity to build something new. I can't say enough about my time at The Syndicate and the opportunity and start it provided. Being able to learn from and work with people like Rob Wilcox, Joe McGinnis, and Jerry Rubino taught me more about promo and the industry than I could have ever hoped for. After a couple particularly great years, Justin Gressley, who came over to [PIAS] last year from Domino, approached me with their plan to start a radio department in-house for the first time. It definitely wasn't an easy decision, but the opportunity to start and shape a department with a respected international label while growing their U.S. presence was too much to pass up. Sean, Justin, and the rest of the team here have built something really special in a short amount of time and I'm stoked to be a part of the next steps.
3. Give us the 411 on [PIAS] and why "independent" is such an important word.
[PIAS] is focused on championing and supporting independent music. We're essentially split into three lanes: [PIAS] Recordings, [PIAS] Cooperative, and [PIAS] Artist and Label Services. Along with our own roster of artists (the recordings side), we partner with labels like Bella Union, Transgressive, Heavenly, and a number of others working as an international label group. The word "independent" is so important because it's exactly how [PIAS] started. We're about 250-people strong around the world, but in its earliest days back in 1984, [PIAS] was two guys in a basement in Brussels talking about artists they loved. The company is still running off that same ethos 30 years later.
4. What is it like working with Sean Maxson?
Sean's great. He's worn so many different hats in this industry over the years and being able to pull from that wealth of experience for advice is awesome. With us still being a small team in the U.S. everything we do is really a collaboration, so Sean steering the ship is a pretty amazing asset to have.
5. How often do you interact with Kenny Gates and Michel Lambot in Brussels?
Kenny and Michel built [PIAS] from the ground up, or I suppose the basement up, and they're still constantly involved in the day to day of the business. I've only been with the label a few months now, but we've already spent time together during their Indie Week visit. [PIAS] spans a lot of territories, but Kenny and Michel do an incredible job of making sure everyone works as a team.
6. What may surprise people the most to learn about the company?
Given that [PIAS] has only been around the U.S. for around 3 years, I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn how long we've had a presence internationally. Even when I was first talking about coming over here I had no idea the breadth of the operation and the established name and brand that exists. Learning about all of our label partners overseas and across the world was totally eye-opening.
7. Where do you get your greatest pleasure in doing record promotion?
I get the most pleasure from connecting radio, listeners, and artists. I was down in Philadelphia with Violent Femmes recently, and watching how excited the guys were that there were young fans in the crowd singing along to every word on the new album was a total dream. I feel like promotion is as much about helping the artist as it is about helping a listener or a fan find their new favorite thing. Working with so many independent or developing artists only makes that more clear. There's nothing cooler to me than meeting someone for the first time and hearing them talk about something they just heard on the radio and hunted down.
8. What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of coming to work is talking about music and meeting new people. I think it's so interesting being able to talk about a common interest with people from all across the country day in and day out. It's crazy that it's actually a job people can have. Even aside from the music, I love hearing what people are up to or what cool place they just visited or what new thing they tried. I've always been interested in people and I couldn't ask for a better gig.
9. What would surprise people the most about you?
People might be surprised with how much I love to cook. I'll tell people time and time again that if music ever didn't work out, I'd definitely head to culinary school and try to open a restaurant. I used to (and still do) watch the Food Network all the time and usually if I'm not at a show, my girlfriend and I are trying out a new recipe at home.
10. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______?
People. (well, and coffee, but mostly people)
What are your hobbies?
I love to cook, love watching sports, and since I'm still a recent Brooklyn resident I love trying out new places around the neighborhood.
Last non-industry job?
I was a line cook at Noodles & Company in Chicago. I believe my official title was "Noodler."
First record ever purchased?
Elliott Smith's Either/Or
(this is a fun one) triple bill: Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, and KISS
Favorite band of all-time?
Hmm, favorite artist would be Elliott Smith. Favorite band ever would be Nirvana. Favorite new/current band is Modern Baseball.