10 Questions with ... Ryan Dokke
June 15, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Before his June 2nd appointment as VP/Promotion at Curb, Dokke had served as Dir./Northeast Promotion for Arista Nashville since 2011. Dokke came to record promotion from radio, where he spent three years as APD/MD at Clear Channel Country WKKT/Charlotte, with previous stops at then-Citadel KDRK/Spokane, WA and KXXK/Aberdeen, WA.
1. Ryan, congrats on the new gig and thanks for taking time for 10 Questions. It's unusual, if not unprecedented for a regional to leap into the VP/Promotion chair. What was it about this opportunity that made you pursue such a jump?
It was the opportunity to join an incredible legacy. Curb Records has a history spanning more than 50 years. To be able to join this company and lead this promotion team was something I couldn't pass on. I'm so excited to be working with Jim Ed Norman, Taylor Childress, Mike Rogers, and the rest of the Curb Team! Also, the music. Lee Brice is releasing an album this fall. New music from American Young. Mo Pitney. This is an incredibly exciting time to be at Curb Records.
2. The other point here is that you will also be possibly the youngest VP in town. And yet, you've packed a lot of experience from both radio and the label sides. How has each part of this biz prepped you for this challenge?
The first thing that comes to mind when you ask, 'what prepped' me for this challenge ... it's the group of people I have been able to work with in my career. It's a terrific list of solid, successful people. Pat Anderson, Jaye Albright, Becky Brenner, Cary Rolfe, Bruce Logan, Lesly Tyson. If you look at that group of people, I think you start to see the beginning of this picture. Pat Anderson (Operations Manager, Grays Harbor Radio - Aberdeen, WA) gave me an incredible opportunity to be the program director of KXXK when I was 21 years old. I think there was an expectation of ... almost 'sink or swim'. Again, I have been fortunate to have been able to work with such GREAT people from the beginning and I have learned so much from all of them about radio, records, strategy, the importance of having a plan and, perhaps, most importantly how to manage people and different personalities.
3. Let's backtrack for a minute: What made you want to jump into promotion? You were on a pretty fast track with the radio career.
It was the opportunity that Lesly Tyson offered at Arista. To be able to work with radio stations in the northeast part of the country, stations that I had been a fan of and programmers that I had long admired was extremely exciting. Add to that that I was going to be working the music of Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Jerrod Niemann, Ronnie Dunn, Kix Brooks. I don't think it takes a genius to figure out that that was a pretty rare opening and awesome opportunity. Also, it was timing. It was just the right time for me to give record promotion a shot.
4. Speaking of radio: Ever miss it? Have you walked into a station or an event and thought, "I wish I was still doing this?"
The simple answer is yes. I still get really excited about cool promotions that a radio station might be doing. I'm very interested in ratings and strategy. I love talking to guys in competitive markets that are just duking it out. PPM, callout research, creative, hungry on-air talents ... I still love it. I'm glad that I still get to be close it.
5. Is the current system of seeking airplay working well enough? Coming from the trenches on that, what do you see that can be done differently?
I was saying the other day that we have to open our minds in my opinion, to more than just spins. Spins are important don't get me wrong. But we need to be more aware of how we are branding our artists with the radio stations that are playing their music. Big picture, win-win partnerships. It is less about the big add day (and I have been a part of a couple record breaking add days), more about the REAL airplay.
6. Curb has one of Country radio's favorite artists, Lee Brice bringing a new album this fall. The early buzz is huge. How does this project take Lee Brice to the next level of his career?
It's GREAT music, first of all. "Hard 2 Love" was HUGE ... the new album is a different layer of Lee Brice. When you listen to this album from start to finish, it flows unlike anything I have heard in a long time. I know he spent a lot of time lying awake at night thinking about the sequencing of this album.
7. There is a lot of talk about "Bro-Country" right now ---- do you see this trend cooling? Has it been a positive or negative for Country?
I do think it's cooling. Talking to radio it feels like that sound is tiring a bit. However, I do feel like it's been good for the format. I think it has brought people to country that maybe wouldn't have been drawn to a more traditional sound, but once they got a taste they have become fans.
8. Also, what about females? Does Curb have any plans to try and break a new female any time soon?
Well I feel for the format to move forward, we NEED more females. There is an unfair bias toward women in this format right now. Nobody wants to take a chance on one (full disclosure - I'm married to one). My wife (Mallary Hope) is one of the women trying to break through some of the thick walls the industry and radio have put up. As for Curb, we working on new music with Ashley Gearing. Ashley just graduated from Belmont and has been writing and recording and we are hoping to have something to radio soon.
9. What does Curb have to do to grow its market share?
Simply put, it's about the music. We have to deliver great music! I think we have a unique roster of artists with some great songs to offer. From Lee, to American Young, to Rodney Atkins, to Mo Pitney. We have a diverse roster and will have some great stuff to offer radio. We also need to be innovative in our approach to the consumer trends and new ideas!
10. Tell us about what Curb artists are coming with new music that we should be excited about?
Well, I've told you a little about the new Lee album. Get ready for a new American Young single this summer. Jon and Kristy have been touring like crazy! They are releasing an EP on June 24th and it is going to be awesome! One of the most exciting things will be the release of Mo Pitney later this year. He is a BIG part of the reason I wanted to be at Curb. His voice, his songs, the delivery. He is going to be one of the most exciting artists to watch over the next year!