10 Questions with ... Dan Pearson
April 16, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Odyssey DJ Entertainment (1995-2001)
- WLIR (92.7)/Long Island (2001-2003)
- Columbia Records/Sony Music (2002-2005)
- Universal Motown (2005-2006)
- MTV Networks (2006)
- Virgin Records/EMI (2006-2007)
- TVT Records (2007-2008)
- Glassnote Records (2008-2009)
- S-Curve Records (2009-Present)
1) What led you to a career in the music business?
My family is very into music, theater, and the arts. Growing up, my Mom was always taking my brother and I to Broadway Musicals, Concerts, Plays, Talks, etc. It was fun and inspiring. My Grandfather was also a partner in an Audio Engineering School, IAR (Institute of Audio Research) in NYC. During his time there he built a recording studio and worked to make the school a State Certified Community College. I remember being as young as eight years old and going to work with him and loving it.
2) Who are some of your earliest mentors who gave you a shot in the business?
I was fortunate enough to land an amazing job right out of college at Columbia Records.
It was scary in the beginning while I learned to work the phones, dropping calls from Beyonce' to Charlie Walk, to Donnie Ienner, and everyone in between. But once I got passed that we were good. (And by "good" I mean in way over my head but just not hanging up on people anymore). I realized that there was a lot to learn, and fast. I remember Brad Davidson offering me direction, advice, and guidance early on. He helped give me the confidence and the tools I needed to succeed.
I also had the pleasure of working for Monte Lipman at Universal. I had so much respect for what he accomplished in his career but only fully realized the type of leader and person he was after getting to know him. I was going through a very difficult time in my life during those years and his compassion and support has stayed with me to this day.
3) There is no question that videos are now helping to break artists. Last year your artist Andy Grammer released an interactive video for his debut song "Keep Your Head Up" that allowed the viewer to participate in how the video would turn out. The concept was brand new and it was truly a first of it's kind. What was involved in S-Curve developing this technology and how did the buzz on the video drive the success of the record?
Our owner, Steve Greenberg came up with this concept and partnered with a company in Israel called Interlude to make it happen. Part of being at an independent label is thinking differently and creatively to get your music heard and your point across. Steve has a talent for this and the video was a big success. It was an important tool in launching Andy and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
4) How would you compare the challenges and/or the advantages between working at an independent label versus a major label?
I've been fortunate enough in my career to work at some of the best major record companies in the world. One benefit I experienced was the vast amount of resources that were available at all times. There are so many talented executives at those labels with years of success and classic music business stories. You can learn a ton by asking lots of questions and listening.
At an independent label there are fewer people to do the work. A big challenge we face at S-Curve is covering the entire country, multi-format with a two person promotion staff. It's a lot of ground to cover, a lot of radio to listen to and analyze, and many people to connect with. Brad Davidson (SVP Promotion) and I somehow find a way to make it work and I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish together over the past few years.
5) What is the biggest thrill about breaking new music to the masses?
The most rewarding thing is when someone says to me that their favorite song is one that I've put so much work, time, and energy into breaking. It makes it all worth it!
6) What are some of the artists we might find on your iPod?
There are so many genres of music I love. Some artists that are in "heavy rotation" for me right now include Etta James, Eric Clapton, Tim McGraw, Sugarland, Old Crow Medicine Show, B.B. King, Maroon 5, Drake, Parachute, and of course, We The Kings and Andy Grammer!
7) Do you have a great road story you'd like to share?
I checked in to a hotel in Georgia a few weeks ago and to thank me for being a loyal customer the manager left me a huge gift basket in my room. It consisted of fruit, crackers, cheese, wine, water, chips, etc. I didn't open it and figured I'd give it to a client the following day. (Yes, I was re-gifting and I'm proud of it. I like to think of it as recycling.)
It was so hot that next day and after driving a few hours I got off of the highway to get gas. At the light there was an old man with a long beard sitting on the corner. He was wearing a ripped shirt and had two dogs laying next to him. He was holding a sign that said "Need money for food, please help us." I reached over to the passenger seat where I had the gift basket, rolled down the window, and called the man over. I handed it to him and the look in his face was a mix of shock and relief. He went back to where he was sitting, opened the water first, and gave it to the dogs. They were so thirsty and happy to be drinking. It was one of those things you just do because it feels right.
8) Name a record person, not on your label, that you really admire?
Cat Collins. We became friends while working at TVT Records and we had a mutual respect for each other from the start. He's all about getting the job done and having fun in the process. He's also managed to evolve and grow as the industry has changed through the years.
9) What's one thing that would surprise many people to learn about you?
I've become a big Country fan over the last ten years. It started on the long drives out in the heart of the country where all you get is one or two radio stations to listen to (if you're lucky). I just love the stories told through the music and I can relate in some ways to the lifestyle. My dream is to be sitting on my porch, drinking sweet tea, and listening to Johnny Cash.
10) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Hard work, honesty, and integrity are qualities everyone respects.
What do you do in your spare time?
Sleep and eat. Just Kidding! I like to run, spend time with my family, and watch NBA basketball. I also love history, especially US history. While I am on the road I try to stop at every historic site, national monument, and scenic overlook possible.
Who is your best friend in the business?
Brad Davidson. His friendship, loyalty, and guidance from day one has helped me grow as a record executive and as a person.
Do you remember the first record that you ever bought?
Billy Joel "Cold Spring Harbor." Growing up on Long Island it seems fitting. I was able to get this album signed my first week on the job as an intern at Columbia Records. It's one of my most cherished pieces of memorabilia.
What was the first concert you ever attended?
Billy Joel & Elton John. Two of my all time favorites.