10 Questions with ... Josh Lauritch
September 14, 2015
1. Hometown, schools, current family, employment background
I was born and raised in West Allis, WI (a suburb of Milwaukee). I met my wife at age 15...we attended the same small Christian high school and were in the sophomore class with a total of 7 students. We've been a couple since and now have a 2 1/2 year old son named Alexander. I attended Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee where I studied Elementary Education.
During my final year at WLC, I met Danny Clayton who was the PD and Morning Show Host at 105.3 The Fish in Milwaukee. He offered to teach me the radio game and allowed me to work with the morning show so I could learn everything possible. He took me under his wing so to speak and after a year of volunteering, I was given a job as the promotions and marketing director along with a few different on-air shifts (overnights, evenings and, eventually, middays).
I moved to Nashville in 2006 to work with Grant Hubbard and the promotion team at EMI CMG (Sparrow, Forefront, sixstepsrecords). I spent four years in promotion and had a chance to work with some incredible artists.
After that, Andrea Kleid hired me at Word to handle brand management and marketing for their roster, which included launching for KING & COUNTRY, Dara Maclean, Everfound and continuing the marketing and brand management for NEEDTOBREATHE, Sidewalk Prophets and Group 1 Crew.
I stepped into artist management in 2013 with the launch of my own firm 55 MGMT where I had the chance to work with Britt Nicole, Sarah Reeves and new acts Kaleidoscope and Erik Nieder. In addition, I also consulted Method Management (Matthew West, Josh Wilson, All Things New and Everfound) and Smallbone Management (for KING & COUNTRY).
I felt the nudge to get back to my first love, Christian radio, in early 2015 and launched an independent promotion company called 55 Promotion in May of 2015.
2. What was it that made you "catch the bug" for radio & radio promotion? When did you realize that it was what you wanted to do for a living?
I have been a huge fan of Christian music since I was 16 years old. When Danny Clayton gave me a chance to work within a format of music that I was incredibly passionate about, there was no looking back. I got a front-row-seat to the impact that the music was having every day in Milwaukee. Listeners shared how the same bands and songs had opened their eyes to Jesus for the first time, helped them in a difficult season of life, encouraged them to dig into their faith for the first time...it was incredible. Then, when I realized there was such a role as radio promotion where I could be part of introducing new music to radio and help to further the careers of those making it, I wanted to be part of it. I'll forever be grateful to Grant Hubbard, Andrea Kleid and Brian Thiele for giving me a chance to be part of the team at EMI.
3. Give us the overview of 55 Promotion.
55 Promotion is an independent company dedicated to promoting music to Christian radio via long-term, trusted relationships with Program Directors and Music Directors all across the United States.
Naming a new company can be a difficult task. You can spend countless hours attempting to be clever, yet never arrive at anything significant. Instead of doing that for my artist management and consulting company, I decided to land on a name that meant something to me: 55 Promotion.
I get fired up every time I tell someone the origins of my company name. It always brings me back to the reason I'm passionate about helping artists and labels achieve their goals. It brings me back to my roots.
I grew up in West Allis, WI in a house my parents still live in to this day. On our street, there are several families who have lived there since before I was born. There's a strong sense of community within the neighborhood. It's a neighborhood full of hard working, honest people. As a child, I learned the importance of having a great work ethic, looking out for your neighbors/community, having each other's back, being loyal, doing the right thing and building trust.
Those are the principles that drive me each and every day. An artist needs a team who will work hard, have vision for the future, look out for their best interests first and have their back all the way. They need a team who will be honest with them at all times with the goal of bringing out the best in them. They need a team they can trust at all times and who are worthy of trust.
That is why I stepped out at started 55 Promotion. Those principles became part of me on 55th Street in West Allis when was growing up and they are what drive me today as I partner with artists and record labels to promote their music to Christian radio.
I'm a story-teller, so I would say that the biggest obstacle I face on a daily basis is finding the reason for a song to be played on the air ahead of another...finding the tie-breaker and the "why." Hype doesn't get records played. Chart positions can intrigue folks. Lyrically, we're all in a similar place...lyrics that speak life and truth. Relationships make a difference, but at the same time, you can have the best relationships with radio and if you release a stiff, it's not going to get played. If it does, it won't last long. Research can make a difference, but every market is unique. Sales and streaming data along with social network and touring buzz is helpful as well. It's putting all of that together to tell the right story every day that is the biggest challenge. When it all comes together and leads to the add, it's very rewarding.
4. With as much music as is available today..... How do you compete with the choices radio stations have available to them?
The best thing I can do to compete is to know their playlist as well as they do, have a full knowledge and understanding of the research available, know the data from the artist side, and know the people I'm talking to every day...what makes them tick, how they approach decisions, what matters in their market and to their listeners. All of that requires that I listen instead of simply promoting and chasing my agenda. I don't know if this quote is an original, but I'm crediting it to Jeremy Holley, SVP of Consumer and Interactive Marketing at Warner Nashville...his team repeated this quote often. "Selling isn't telling." There're so much more that goes into it than simply spouting off info. Listen first. Know what matters to the people you're talking to every day. Give them something that serves their needs. Bring them a great song.
Also, I'll add that as a promotion guy, you have to have some level of killer instinct. You need to hustle and be persistent every single day. You have to know when to dig in and bet your reputation on a song if you believe it deserves a chance to be played.
5. What would you categorize as your greatest personal challenge? What are you doing to overcome that?
That's a heavy question for an industry trade site. Ha! I'll keep it business focused but at the same time, it's personal as well. Here's my daily challenge: To be in the Christian music business but not of it. I'll explain...
We represent Jesus every day as believers but even in our business, we seek to further the kingdom of God via music and artistry that proclaims the truth of the gospel. We should be held to a higher standard of character and integrity. I have several friends and mentors in my life that are committed to the same thing as I am. We're hoping we can be folks who impact this format not only by having success in our businesses but also by consistently doing the right thing, maintaining our integrity and putting the interests and needs of others ahead of our own. This is nearly impossible if you don't have people in your life who are committed to the same thing.
6. Who are 3 people that you look/have looked to as mentors/leaders? What is/was it that draws/drew you to them?
David Smallbone - He and I worked together on Rebecca St. James shows when I was in Milwaukee. He was kind and encouraging to me as a 23-year-old promotions director. We stayed in touch during my time at EMI. We worked together to launch for KING & COUNTRY and even worked together on some things after my time at Word. He does things differently. He's committed to the church. He fights daily with the balance of the entertainment business and ministry and does it marvelously. He's learned hard lessons during his career and has poured so much wisdom and encouragement into me as a young guy trying to find my way in this business.
Joel West at Method Management - We've gone to war with each other for years now. What he did with his brother [Matthew West] during his time managing him is astonishing. He turned the tides and brought him incredible success. He has vision for days and when he believes in an artist, he never stops fighting for them, protecting them and building their careers in ways they could never see possible. He's also a man of integrity and great character even though he's a Red Sox fan (Go Yankees!). He's been a trusted friend and colleague for many years. His passion for his acts drew me to him initially and seeing him work behind the scenes confirmed that he is everything people say about him. If I were an artist, I would pay him extra percentage points just to have him on my team.
Mike McCloskey at sixstepsrecords and management - Mike and I worked closely together during my time at EMI CMG and he's been a friend since. Mike's level of excellence in the way he works in unparalleled. He pushed me to be better every day likely without ever realizing it. He takes his work and his mission seriously. He's committed to the bigger purpose of his artist's careers and doesn't do things simply because "that's what you do". He handles the pressuring, high profile nature of his role with such grace and class and is kind to those he works with and those he doesn't stand to gain anything from. I'm glad to know him.
7. What do you believe is the single greatest factor in radio promotion? Why do you believe it's that important?
Care. Care enough to do your homework on a song so you have every possible bit of information to help you craft the best story possible. Care enough about the PDs and MDs you work with every day to learn who they are, how they approach their roles, what they care about when it comes to music and how they make decisions. Care enough to put yourself in their shoes, but don't for a second think you can do what they do better. Care enough to fight for your clients and to give them the best and most accurate information on the songs you're promoting...not the info that makes you look better to them.
8. Most successful campaign ever.....details from start to finish?
I was part of the team who was responsible for the promotion of Chris Tomlin's "Jesus Messiah" to Christian radio (Grant Hubbard, Betsy Jones and Brian Thiele + me). It was the lead single from the Hello Love record.
The plan was to have the biggest add week in the history of the format because we knew that if we could do that, his record would have the biggest and best shot at retail. We knew we had to get every radio station to commit to playing it ONLY in the week that it went for adds OR to add it on the add date with 0 spins.
We began by setting the expectation that it was the best song that Chris had ever written. We didn't give anyone access to it on PlayMPE...just told the story and built the buzz. In addition to building expectation, we let radio in on the significance of a huge first week to Chris' overall career...the touring, the retail plan, etc.
People wanted to help. They wanted to be part of something way bigger than an add week. We unveiled the song individually to each person we talked to who was interested in being part of this type of story. As they heard it, they agreed about how special this song was.
We learned how each station added records...on Friday, on Monday, with 0 spins, after they had already played it, etc. We got everyone lined up and released the song for download on PlayMPE the week we went for adds.
We had 97 in the first week...nobody added it early. That record still stands today. However, the song was never a #1 on AC Monitored. That will not be forgotten. DOH!
9. What's the last book you read?
Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian.
He walks you through suffering from a Biblical lens. The goal is to breakdown how we are to suffer and why suffering hurts so badly. I've looked at God as a genie in a bottle type for a very long time. I suffer and I rub the lamp for Him to change my circumstances. When He doesn't, I get angry and bitter. I suffer even more. The Biblical idea is that He's with me IN my suffering and He is Himself for me in my suffering.
Ultimately, suffering is so painful because, often, the thing that is stripped away from us and causes us to suffer is held in higher regard than Jesus. It hurts so much because it's idolatry. I could talk for hours about this book and its impact on my life...if you have ever suffered in any way or know someone who has (all of us, actually), I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
10. Most embarrassing moment?
I'm sure I've had many of these through the years, but the one that comes to mind happened when I was walking onto the stage to introduce a concert during my time at 105.3 The Fish. I believe I was 24-years-old at the time. The show was packed...around 2,000 people in attendance. It was Superchick and BarlowGirl if my memory serves me correctly. As I walked onto the stage to hype the crowd and introduce the first act, I caught my foot on a guitar cable and bit it hard on the stage in front of all those people. The house lights were down still, but I know all of those folks saw me fall. I think it was my quickest intro/hype moment of all time...I wanted to go die after that.
1. If you were King for a day, and could "fix" three things in radio land....what would they be, and why?
Partnership in breaking new artists. You can count the amount of headline artists in the format on two hands. Most of those on the list have been on the list for more than 10 years. We need to embrace artists and break new acts. That comes from intentional partnership. Country music does a great job of investing in the career of the artist. Labels and radio work together on this and build successful careers and headline acts by embracing the artist and introducing them to the audience on all levels. If we continue to have a "what can I get from you" mentality at our format, we'll miss some tremendous opportunities. Artists and labels have something to offer radio. Radio has something more they can offer artists and labels. Partnership will change our format. There are some brilliant artists who can be the headline acts of tomorrow, but that doesn't happen accidentally.
Remember that we are sharing a moment. This might be a small thing, but I'll mention it because it's a pet peeve. I hear a song that tells me that Jesus pleads my cause and rights my wrongs, that He gave His life to give me mine, that I am free from all the guilt and shame...I'm wrecked by this. I'm weeping. I'm sharing a moment with this artist and radio station that could be a difference maker in my eternity. Then, the song ends and we're back into some silly bit with a bad punch-line at the end without even acknowledging the moment we just shared. Let me know who sang the song (shout-out to Mike Blakemore at FISH/Atlanta on this...we just talked about this very thing recently). Let me know that I'm not the only one who needs to be reminded of the gospel. Jocks are often so quick to jump back and execute the format that they forget the power of the moments they're sharing with their audience when a song is playing. I wish we could take some time to let it breathe a bit, acknowledge the moment and then jump into the bit or break...with better punch-lines at the end of the bit. Simply being on the radio does not make you a comedian.
I'd love to see someone develop a research system that is bigger than...
- Do you like this song?
- Are you familiar with this song?
- Do you want to hear it more, less or the same?
Rating it a '4' means "I like it" and that's still a big deal, right? I think there's more we can be looking at than this system of research. There is a tremendous amount of data at our fingertips. We can know everything there is to know about our Facebook fans. We can see who's streaming which songs in any market in the US on all of the streaming outlets that matter. We can see ticket counts for any show in our market. We can see sales data on a song or act in our specific market. Yet, all that's used to determine if a song should stay on the air or not is a simple 1-5 voting system where you don't ever know with certainty who's taking the survey. Trust me...I'm a 42 year old female with 3 kids in many cities in America and I'm sure I'm not the only one. There are more things we can consider if we truly want the best and favorite songs to stay on the air longer.
I don't know how to build that system, but I know there's more data at our fingertips to determine if a song is going to work or not.
2. You've got the podium and a live mike at CMB Momentum. All eyes and ears are trained on you. What do you say, and why?
Christian music exists to make something of the name of Jesus. This format rose from obscurity for a great purpose. Songwriters wrote songs about the truth of Scripture with the goal of furthering the Kingdom of God. Artists and bands gathered at their colleges or in their garages to play music that they knew would lead others to Jesus and further His name and encourage the church. Record labels were created to partner with artists in the goal of impacting culture for the fame of Jesus. Publishing companies were created to further grow the impact of a song within the culture and the church. Radio stations came on the air to be a light in the midst of darkness and to impact their cities for the fame of Jesus. Then, incredible and lucrative businesses were built up around all of this music. It's easy to forget why we work in Christian music. We quickly believe the lie that we are the "man" and that we have great power and influence. We enjoy that power. We buy our own hype. The business that exists to make much of Jesus quickly becomes about "me."
There was a certain purity and innocence about Christian music when I fell I love with it as a 16-year-old kid in Milwaukee that I'd love for us to get back to.
We need to drop the act. We are all flawed people, sinners in need of saving. We are all servants of Jesus if we truly are His followers. Let's serve each other. Let's focus on the church and building it up. Let's be good partners. Artists, treat your managers, your labels, your publishers, radio, promoter, etc. with the respect they deserve. You are not entitled to anything. Radio friends, you are not the man. You are not the maker or breaker of anyone's career no matter how big of an audience you have. Record labels, you build your business on the creativity and gifts of artists and writers. Serve them well. Put their best interests ahead of your bottom line. Managers, if artists aren't healthy, you have no business. Put their needs first. Seek to save artists from themselves. Serve them and their best interests first. It will work out. Songwriters, stop chasing hits at radio. Write the truth. Pursue excellence. We are not responsible for the result of our work, but we are responsible for how we go about our business and how we treated those we worked with on our way to success.
We represent Jesus. Let's be worthy of that in the way we work with each other in the large and high-pressure interactions and in the tiny mundane things we do every day. It matters. *steps off his soapbox*