10 Questions with ... Tom Callahan
June 10, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
What led you to a career in the music business? Who are some of your earliest mentors who gave you a shot in the business?
I was a studio and touring musician before moving into the business side in 1987. My first Job was with Enigma Records, then to IRS Records then on to Virgin Records. My earliest mentors are Miles Copeland, Barry Lyons and Michael Plen. There are so many that I observed and that I learned from throughout the years though... Even now I find myself looking up and learning from lots of folks.
1) What do you feel is the most important issue facing record labels and the artists in the current business environment?
In my opinion, fairly structuring their partner participation with one another and seeing the future with regard to monetizing the live streaming radio content. I think there are a number of constantly evolving issues.
2) You recently appeared on an episode of the TV series "Shark Tank" to pitch your artists Cab 20. Please tell us about this experience and how this exposure helped the project in the long-run?
Well it was a crap-shoot and it was a bit scary quite honestly for all the reasons you might suspect, but in the end, it turned out in our favor (mostly). We did get offered $200K but the terms were not as favorable as I would have liked, in addition to the money being less than I was seeking. It gave the band a lot of exposure as the episode ran twice. I think we had over 10,000 hits overnight on the website in part due to Mark Cuban tweeting about it. It made it easier to get better gigs and bring new audience awareness to the band. Thinking outside the box and being open to any and all potential opportunities is essential.
3) What do you do to inspire your artists for success? How do they motivate you?
I try and help the artist understand two things. Times have changed and you need to be thoughtful and patient. I also tell them they it is in fact possible to reach your potential. I am also motivated and inspired by quality music and the artist's passion.
4) Records sales are down for the past decade now and while streaming services have helped, they are still not making up the difference. What can be done about this?
I think one has to change their perception and expectation from what it was ten years ago and figure out how to best move their own careers forward relying more on themselves than on the labels. :)
5) How do you feel about the new royalty rate debate over Internet and terrestrial radio?
I feel that the streaming businesses need to think more long term and I think the labels need to be more for to the artists delivering the content. Without the artists, neither business would exist.
6) Pandora, Apple, Amazon, Spotify, and many others have recently introduced music in "The Cloud." What effect will these new music services have on the radio and music industries?
Music whenever wherever you want. It's a good thing! However, less and less people will actually OWN music... and that's a SAD thing.
7) What can radio and record companies be doing with their radio station web sites or social media portals to drive more music fans to these sites?
I think everyone is starting to understand more fully that the direct fan engagement is elemental to the success. One Tweet leads to more Facebook hits, leads to more YouTube views, leads to more digital downloads etc etc etc... Its a domino effect and it must be vertically integrated.
8) What are the most important tools/resources you use to stay on top of the music business and all the daily changes that are happening.
I read ALL ACCESS, I read some blogs, I still watch the charts, I subscribe to the tip sheets etc. I go to conventions and conferences and listen to my 20 year old daughter.
9) As music purchases have migrated to the Internet, the music industry has transformed back into a "singles business." How can record companies persuade consumers to buy the entire album of their favorite artist?
Why has anyone ever bought an entire album? The artist has to move someone enough so that the consumer is inspired to purchase ALL of their music. I don't think persuasion works when it comes to matters of the heart. You can't sell passion to someone. The artist and fan have to have an intimate relationship.
10) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Quality + determination + serendipity are the key ingredients to success. BUT there is NEVER one straight route.
What do you do in your spare time?
I teach Kyokushin Karate and have two schools in Los Angeles. I also continue to train in various disciplines.
What are some of the artists we might find on your MP3 player?
I have a very eclectic taste like most of us probably do. Anyone for old school favs like James Taylor, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to Aerosmith, to Pat Metheny, Clapton, to Bonnie Raitt. I listen to too much contemporary music for work... I like to kick-back with music I grew up with....and I don't apologize for it.
Name a record person that you really admire?
I have always been a big fan of Jason Flom, and I have been fortunate to get to know him these past few years.
Who is your best friend in the business?
Probably Nick Bedding who I hired as my assistant at Virgin Records in 1990. I have watched him grow into a great promotion guy. a wonderful family man, and a great friend.
What's the worst excuse you ever heard from a programmer?
"He is hitting a bad note in the chorus....on the keyboard." I shit you not!
What singer/performer/artist really inspires you and why?
To this day I still am blown away by Joni Mitchell every time I hear her. Stops me dead in my tracks.
If you had the opportunity to work any act/artist from the past, present or future who would it be?
ONE?... Wow. James Taylor. I have met him several times and have worked with his side-musicians and know Sally his daughter well. But I have never "worked" with James who was a huge inspiration for me growing up.