10 Questions with ... David C. Coleman
February 21, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Bassin Distributors, Alliance Entertainment Corp., Transform Music Group, Chrematizo Label Group / CLG Distribution
1. What was your first job in the music industry?
After graduating from college with a bachelor's degree in Political Science, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Fundamentally, I had always been the most passionate about music. Growing up, I was in the school band and played French horn, but my desire had always been to play the drums. I eventually followed that path and played in rock bands throughout my teens and 20s. In actuality, I only pursued college because that's what I was "supposed" to do. A friend and bandmate had been working for a music distributor in South Florida so I acquired a job with the distributor and began my professional journey in the music business. With college degree in hand, I started at the very bottom as an order picker. It was a humbling experience but afforded me the opportunity to learn the business from the ground up.
2. Do you have mentors to whom you would credit your work?
There were two gentlemen early in my career who instilled solid business principles: Joe Stanzione and Roger Neilly. Joe was more of an educated, polished businessman while Roger provided a certain level of "street smarts" which were also beneficial. Brett Carnali (manager for independent artist Kathleen Carnali) has provided fertile ground for brainstorming. His unorthodox and forward-thinking views toward the music industry have helped me clarify and define the long-term goals for CLG. I've also learned a lot from Bob Morrison, formerly with Midas Records and currently with E1. His mind for organization and detail has helped me develop a higher level of the same qualities in my own work habits and overall business perspectives.
3. What is your favorite part of your work?
I love being involved in a field dealing directly with my personal passion: music! Beyond that particular point, though, my favorite part of the job is connecting with the artists and discovering their heart for ministry. I'm certainly passionate about music but I'm even more passionate about the use of music as an evangelistic tool and platform to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
4. What do you listen for when you hear new songs or potential radio singles?
This varies according to genre, but a catchy, memorable melody with a strong hook is always critical. Rap, of course, does not adhere to this particular point. As a drummer, I'm drawn to rhythm. For virtually every genre I listen for a solid foundational rhythm and meaningful lyrical content. Regarding lyrics, I prefer the poetic and clever over the simple and cliché. But I also listen for an intangible quality which can't necessarily be defined. I guess one might call this the "it factor." At the end of the day, music should speak to the gatekeepers on a gut level (as it most certainly does the average listener). Gatekeepers should be music fans, first and foremost, seeking to bring the best and brightest content to the public. From my perspective, it's important to note that great music is not defined or authenticated by the label name on the back cover.
5. What can Christian radio or the Christian music industry do to break through to a mass audience on a more consistent basis?
I could write a book on this one! My response relates to the music industry in general, but I'll tailor it toward the Christian industry. First, throw out the rulebook. The current system of testing songs merely ensures the next song will sound like the last song and that the current audience will likely receive it well. If the target audience for Christian radio is a 35- to 50-year-old soccer mom with a minivan, where does that leave the rest of us who don't fit that demographic? To expand listenership, Christian radio needs to be bold and take some chances. Kids are the key, as they tend to be the largest consumer of music and they need to be courted most aggressively with a strong Christian message. The only way a broader audience will tune in is if their interests are being catered to.
In my opinion, for terrestrial radio to survive in a day and age when new mediums for content delivery are popping up everywhere, the powers that be must loosen the reigns and return to an era when DJs were given the flexibility to discover and promote music from a gut level. DJs were once the tastemakers but in today's corporate climate, that ability has been squelched and relegated to test panels. Music listeners long for authenticity in the music they listen to.
And Christian radio, for the most part, is not servicing their full constituency well in this regard. Most music-loving Christians who demand artistically authentic music simply won't tune in because they are well aware their tastes are ignored. To be fair, Christian radio has come a long way over the course of the last 20 years. But the inherent lack of flexibility built into the current system stifles the likelihood of exposure for the vast majority of truly inspiring, ground-breaking and artistic music.
We must remember that music is an art form. Unfortunately, the industry tends to reduce music to the level of "product." It has become something to peddle. Bring the passion back in the hearts of the DJs, PDs and MDs, and a corresponding reaction will occur among the listeners hungry for inherently artistic and creative music. Center the decision making process in the hands of those who can transform radio rather than forcing personnel to be conformed by the tastes and attitudes of a very small subset of the Christian community.
Music is not strictly something to be analyzed. It is something to be felt, lived and breathed. If radio wants to draw more listeners, decision makers will need to take some risks. Turn the discovery process over to the frontline decision makers and challenge them to unearth "the next big thing!" I've always seen the Christian community as a microcosm of the broader community. Therefore, not all Christians find AC or CHR radio interesting. It seems that the stigmas associated with the Country, Rap and Hard Rock genres prevent much of the most culturally relevant music from being heard. Christian music can be "family friendly" at 160 beats per minute as long as the lyrics are theologically sound and the heart of the messenger pure. Christian music will never be truly evangelistic if it's not presented in a language the world understands. Let's be honest, Johnny 16-Year-Old doesn't want to listen to his mother's music. Mom is speaking proper English but Johnny only speaks slang. Coincidentally, the mass market generally speaks slang as well. You dig?
6. What are some of the projects or artists that you're working with right now that are poised for a hit in Christian music or on Christian radio?
We're excited about a summer release from former Word Records star Miss Angie. With four Top 10 hits under her belt (two of which reached #1), the potential for success looms large. The chosen radio promoter is very excited as well. Legendary Black Gospel artist Keith Pringle is also poised for success at radio. He has a rich legacy from the '80s full of gospel standards still sung in many houses of worship even today. And his comeback is being received very well by old and new fans alike.
Of course, there are some lesser-known artists we're working with who possess tremendous potential as well. Rap artists Viktory, CY and Soul Water are all releasing singles to Christian CHR in the near future. We're also working with Brooke Fraser's "Flags" album but the label is redirecting its focus to the general market for this release. "Something In The Water" is being released to secular radio around Valentine's Day.
7. What is the best piece of advice you've received when it comes to the music industry?
Run!!! Just kidding. Relative to my own circumstances, I would say the best advice I've received is to seek the Lord constantly and follow his will for me regardless of circumstance. Remain focused on him and don't be distracted by the trials and tribulations that present themselves along the way. Being involved in the music industry at this time is no picnic. I must believe in the ultimate vision God has placed in my heart and trust he will bring these things to fruition.
8. Who inspires you personally, professionally and/or spiritually?
Personally, my father was a huge inspiration in the way he lived his life with honor and integrity. My mother also taught me the art of compassion and personal respect for others regardless of factors like race, religion or gender. Professionally, I'm inspired by like-minded individuals with the desire to redefine and/or refocus the essence of Christian music, music that inspires the masses through the authenticity of the art form and the integrity of the message (and lifestyle of the messenger). Spiritually, Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale has been one of my biggest inspirations. I grew more in the first year at the church than I had over the course of my entire life. Through him, I learned that growth comes through weeding the garden of sin in our lives.
9. If you could have any other job outside radio or the music industry, what would it be?
I love creative endeavors so some of the career paths I've considered in the past have included journalism and the culinary arts. At this point in my life I would likely choose to be involved with politics in some form or fashion. I have a fundamental desire to help others, and becoming a politician would allow me the opportunity to change the world for the better by employing a combination of common sense and biblical wisdom. I also enjoy political punditry.
10. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without:
The Holy Spirit, a can of Mountain Dew in the morning, music that stirs my soul, and an Internet connection!