10 Questions with ... David Ross
August 16, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
David's career began at Alpha Distributors, representing A&M, Motown, Vanguard, Boardwalk, Tomato and Arista Records. He cut his teeth in the promotion and production world working with and breaking bands like The Police, Stevie Wonder Whitney Houston, The Grateful Dead, Love and Rockets, Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. As Vice President of National Promotion, Matthew Sweet, Tool and Philadelphia's own Interpreters were among the artists that David helped break through to international success. After David formed S*Management in 2000, he was recruited in 2003 by Vertis, a $1.8B corporation to the newly created position of Vice President, Entertainment Sales and Business Development Executive, helming the newly created Entertainment Division. Most recently, David has consulted on various entertainment-related projects and consults on the pre-media side in the world of entertainment and advertising. For close to 20 years, David has been affiliated with the TJ Martell Foundation, which has raised more than $250 million in donations for AIDS, Cancer and Leukemia research programs. Additional charities include local Autism chapters, The Joe Torre Foundation as well as various Alzheimer's foundations.
1. David, thanks so much for taking the time to tackle 10 questions! After launching Reviver in December, things seem to be moving fast. Last month, you announced a full, in-house promo team with seasoned staffers. What made now the time to expand?
Thanks, appreciate you sharing our announcement. As you well know, in business, timing is everything. Over the past few years since the success of our Let Us In Nashville projects in 2011, we have been building Reviver as not only a record label for music creation and distribution, but for A&R, production and management - and the only missing link to take us to the next level was bringing a radio team in-house. StarFarm Nashville has done an outstanding job with our LOCASH project - with "I Love This Life" recently cracking the Top 40. By bringing on our own promo department, we're able to further complete the team. As you know, radio loves and needs not only great content, but great music, and there are so many ways of receiving it. Reviver's goal is to streamline that flow so radio gets what it needs from one source.
2. You've tapped longtime Music Row executive Gator Michaels as SVP and leader of the new Reviver Records promotion team, and you've also had former Sony Nashville EVP Butch Waugh as an advisor in the past. Those are strong resources! Tell us about your connection to Butch.
Butch doesn't have an official title at Reviver, but he has certainly served as a great mentor for me as I have built the Reviver foundation. He was my boss in New York at RCA in the late 80s, and since those days, we never lost touch. There are a handful of executives I've used to build the Reviver foundation, and Butch is right there at the top of the mountain. Mentor? Yup.
3. Did all of this start with the "Let Us In" Nashville and Americana projects? Also, please explain what those are and how you became involved.
It did. Reviver Records actually "revived" something that started back in 1998 when Linda McCartney passed away from breast cancer. There were some bumps in the road which led me to get involved with The Women and Cancer Fund (WACF) in 2011. Sir Paul gave us his blessing for us to create these projects in her honor via the WACF, which prompted us to make these two outstanding recordings.
4. As described on the label website, Reviver is "independent, risk-taking, staunch in its beliefs, young, free, supportive.... daunting and above all, a caring record label." That is an amazing goal and a terrific mission statement. It's also challenging, given the current climate in the music business. How do you hope to achieve your goals here?
Thanks. My goals and mindset was and is to think big ... blinders off ... and give the music fan the best product available. My "major label mentality" carried over to my "independent label functionality and execution." I truly care for the artists I represent and the music that is put out there for people to hear. I think that passion, paired with the expertise and forward-thinking of our executive team and staff, is enough to catapult us through any roadblocks and achieve success.
5. You also say your goals are to "present records with artistry and radio in mind." What do you say to cynics who believe these two aims are not possible to attain simultaneously?
6. Let's talk about your roster that is aimed at Country radio - first LOCASH. Everyone agrees these guys are talented and amazing songwriters. What will it take to make them a real contender for a play-list slot on Country radio?
Chris and Preston make up LOCASH. Harnessing their creativity will be the most challenging aspect of my job. The songs are there. The showmanship is evident. Their personalities are second to none. What is needed is very simple -- come see a LOCASH show and you're hooked. Game on.
7. Also, Lucas Hoge and Blackjack Billy - along with LOCASH, these are edgy, outside the lines artists - Obviously you feel the format is ready for, and needs that sound as part of the mix?
My artists have experience, are multi-talented musicians, producers and individuals who eat, breathe and love their format. Their music is very competitive with all of the other successful acts out there today.
8. Can you talk about your view of Country music and radio right now. It's bigger and more popular than ever, and yet many purists think that is actually hurting, or, watering down the genre. What does Country music need to strengthen its credibility among non-core users?
I wouldn't say watering down, I would say progressing. Adding in elements that create the next generation of music for the format. Hey, [SiriusXM Programmer] John Marks plays music on his stations that cross boundaries and age groups. I applaud him for his energy, passion, and vision. Terrestrial radio still takes some chances and I believe would like to have the next King George, Garth or Reba.
9. And, please share your take on Country radio. Still necessary even amid many other sources of music discovery? What do you think it does well - and what can it do to improve?
Radio, specifically our Country format, engages the listeners in a way I don't know of in any other genre. Country radio allows artists to share their personal experiences and individual personalities with listeners, making them feel like "family" to their fans. This not only helps the artists, but it actually increases ratings and listenership.
10. Your background is so diverse - it includes, among other things, promoting and breaking acts like the Police, Whitney Houston and Lionel Ritchie. Though the music business is very different now, what can you take from those experiences that will work today - and in Country music?
I was fortunate to not only work those superstars mentioned above, but cut my teeth working, traveling and becoming part of the Country music fabric while at RCA promoting the great Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Alabama, Restless Heart, John Denver, KT Oslin ... The list goes on and on.
The fundamentals haven't changed. Give me a great song, great production, and an artist that has the passion and drive to succeed and you have Reviver Records.