10 Questions with ... John Alexander
July 21, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Has spent the past 30 years in Marketing, Advertising, Sports Promotion and Artist Management. First notable management client was Patty Loveless (pre MCA!). Worked in Radio at WMJC-FM on Long Island, Big City Radio's Y107 in NYC, Jones Radio Networks, GAC, and most recently with Black River Entertainment.
1) Congratulations on launching your own company-can you tell us what led to the decision to go out on your own?
When the decision was made by Sarah Darling to move her personal management outside of the offices of Black River Entertainment that essentially eliminated my position under the BRE umbrella because managing Sarah Darling was my job! It was a decision that was coming for several months for a variety of reasons. The day it happened I immediately set forth the plan to launch the company with Sarah as my focus. It was exciting and liberating!
2) Sarah Darling is your flagship artist. What are the current plans for Sarah as far as her career?
Our plan is to continue her story - building the career strategically with everything we do. That includes the release of our own recordings, building the fan base socially, creating more strategic brand partnerships for her, and developing television platforms for her. We will be touring all summer at large fairs, festivals, and some Alan Jackson dates. Amanda French (our publicist) will also keep the media machine cranking with interviews, TV appearances and promotions.
3) You spent several years at Black River Entertainment-what was the take away from your time there that will shape the rest of your career?
I spent 2 years and 6 months there. I worked with some very talented and passionate people there. As far as a take away? CEO Gordon Kerr often said three things: 1) Check your ego at the door. 2) Hire better than yourself and Get Out of their way. 3) Hope to leave here a better place than where you found it. I found those statements to ring true as far as my experience there. I think I left there a better place. And I am hiring those better than myself in their areas of expertise and letting them run with the ball - with no ego involved. It was an exciting ride seeing the business from that side. I learned a great deal there. But - my true take away is to always fight for your beliefs - and as a manager - take a bullet for your artist if need be. I did both for Sarah there.
4) What drew you to Sarah as an artist that makes her special in your opinion?
I met Sarah at a Halloween party in 2009 while I was employed at GAC. Knew her name - and that she had a video called Jack Of Hearts, and that was about it. Was struck with how nice a person she was. She gave me her debut CD and I listened to it on a business trip a few weeks later. Knew immediately she was something special. Not just as a vocalist, but as a writer. There was innocence, and an honesty I had not heard in another artist. And then getting to know her as I began helping her at GAC I found this girl that was almost broken spirited and it called for my help. She deserved a champion in her life to fight for her. Have not regretted the decision.
5) Will you be signing other artists to your company? And will you stick to strictly Country artists?
Right now I am more interested in managing Sarah, and testing the waters with other artists on helping them build a team to market themselves through consultation. Management is a marriage in so many ways. I started with Sarah consulting and marketing her through my platforms at GAC. It grew into a management relationship. I will be working with other artists yes - and I am not limited to Country. I am not rushing into any relationship (which is why I am still single in my 50s!)
6) You have a radio background-is it still as crucial to break an act initially at Country radio? Can you get a buzz going through social media first and then take a project to radio?
Radio is still the Holy Grail. If you want to have huge success, Country radio is the key driver. That being said - I have built Sarah's career without the benefit of massive radio airplay. She had respectable airplay with HOME TO ME, which I thought was going to be the breakthrough. We didn't have any story when I took over the management. So - I focused on those social drivers with the Black River team, and created opportunities for her. From Opry appearances, partnerships with brands, consecutive #1 videos, and getting her name in as many places as I could. My strategy for the current single is similar - awareness, impressions, and hopefully RADIO AIRPLAY!
7) Why in your opinion does it seem harder to push female artists through the system at radio currently?
That is the million-dollar question. I don't know why there is a resistance from Country radio to get behind a female. In other formats it's not a problem. I am so happy for Kasey Musgraves and Jana Kramer who have broken through. I challenge the PDs to open the playlists for more females. Selfishly beginning with Sarah Darling. If you love a song from a female, play it. Let the listeners decided if it is worth of your support. I guarantee that if Country radio begins spinning Little Umbrellas - they will get a HUGE positive response from their listeners. It is a big ole HIT plain and simple.
8) You were able to secure many unique sponsor tie-in's with Sarah-Moonpie and Crock Pot come to mind. How much has all of that helped with awareness of her as an artist?
It has helped tremendously. Her face is on over 3 million MoonPie packages with a sweepstakes partnered with The Grand Ole Opry. She was on over a million Crock Pot Boxes. These brand awareness campaigns allow her to get her brand, which is HER NAME out there. It's often told to me from label marketing people, and friends in the industry that Sarah Darling is EVERYWHERE. That is done by design and I will continue to do these partnerships to build impressions. And- the brands LOVE HER. I open a door - she keeps it wide open because she is easy to work with, is gracious, grateful, and deserving.
9) Sarah has also had many, many great showcases for her talent-and the accolades have been there, for instance she received a rave review in the NY Times. Why in your opinion has that not translated to radio airplay yet?
Before the Dann Huff produced HOME TO ME - the story was that the music was not right. Well the music was right with Home To ME. I know the Black River Entertainment promo team worked passionately to get the song heard. We had a tool case FILLED with an incredible story about this girl. We had National TV appearances, brand endorsements, amazing reviews, and we had INCREDIBLE sales! For whatever reason it was not added. Where it was added it resonated and it sold units. Programmers all have their own reasons for not getting behind Sarah, and they have to be careful whom they get behind. Sarah Darling is a thoroughbred. If they bet on her THEY WIN!
10) The new Sarah Darling song "Little Umbrellas," seems like the perfect summer song-how does it feel so far? Congrats on the early sales at iTunes!
I am so excited about this song. From the minute I open my eyes in the morning to the minute I go to sleep (which is not that often these days) I think about how to break this song. We have a BIGGER story now than HOME TO ME with LITTLE UMBRELLAS. It feels like something very special is about to happen. We are calling ALL THE SHOTS. It is a surefire summer hit. It's already selling like crazy (based on John Marks and SiriusXM being the first to add it). Over 5000 sold with ONE OUTLET playing it in just over two weeks. Incredible! Now its up to Country Radio to take the shot because it DESERVES to be heard. The story has been built. I really have to challenge Country Radio to do something that might be against their philosophies and policies for the next 12 or so weeks (because that is ONLY how long we are working this song - through September 21) Play it BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT!
1) Is it true that you were once a professional wrestler? Tell us about that.
YES it is! A brief in ring career and I was not very successful! Got the crap beat out of me often! I was a fan of pro wrestling as a kid, and then grew into writing and covering matches for national magazines. Started a radio show in college on the business and gave it a shot in the ring. Spent most of the early - mid 90s as a promoter of wrestling tours and fan conventions. Got a PHD during those years of dealing with every imaginable personality. Great learning experience!
2) You are from NY and so is GAC-TV superstar Suzanne Alexander- you two also worked together at WMJC on Long Island-is that your sister?
She is my sister from another Mother. We've actually worked at 3 different companies together. WNYG on Long Island (a little mom and pop station) - WMJC with Mr. Jim Asker, and at GAC. She's one of my best friends for life and literally like my sister. I love her!
3) Your caricature is on the wall at the Palm in Nashville! How many steaks do you have to eat to get that treatment!
Have you looked at me lately! That should tell you how many steaks I've eaten at the Palm to get my face on that wall!