10 Questions with ... Mark Abramson
December 6, 2011
1. What made you want to get into the music business? Early mentors? First job?
I have always been a music guy. Growing up listening to Fingers Metal Shop on Long Island (WBAB) made me want to get into radio. That led me to Buffalo where I went looking for a radio show and a Broadcasting degree. I got the metal show on WBNY and was loving life (school and I, on the other hand, not so much), which led me to think about getting in on the "other side."
Once I started thinking label I really only seriously considered one place -- Roadrunner Records! I quit school to take a free internship, which led to part-time to full-time to here I am! My early mentors were Kathie Merritt (who I interned for), John Fagot and Valerie Delong - each of whom was indispensable to my career!
2. Too many records, too few slots. What data seems to be most important to you when jockeying for an open slot on a radio station and why? Ticket sales? Tour info? Prior success? Retail? Other stations?
You really just need a story! Now, that being said, it isn't as simple as that, ha ha. Record sales to me are more impressive than ever, as they are so much harder to come by. Digital downloads are an instant barometer of a song making an impact. Certainly if the band can sell out in that station's town, it should be impressive ... and a history is also important. The worst situation is when you have nothing to build on, but after that you just start grabbing every REAL bit of success and build up the story to greater and greater levels of legitimacy until you finally have the undeniable story.
3. It seems that set-up is more important now than ever. What do you do to inspire your staff for success in the field on a daily basis with the amount of material that recording companies are releasing in today's market place?
Threaten to waterboard them! Oh wait, I think that is illegal, not sure. Our staff kicks ass and I am so proud of them. They inspire me -- are you kidding me?
4. Who do you consider the current tastemakers in the Rock world?
Oh right, like I am going to step into that trap?
5. It has become apparent that in this research-driven time, records are taking much longer to "test." How do you go about making sure that your record will be given a fair shot?
It's real tough, probably one of the biggest problems an unproven band has at radio. In this world of multiple distractions, it DOES take longer to get a good read. Where it used to take 150 spins to get a good read now it takes over 200 ... and everything is moving so fast that people try to move on when they don't get a read at 100 spins. This is a problem. If we don't give songs more time to breathe and develop, we will be left without libraries and catalogs!
6. Every promotion person has a record close to their heart that for one reason or another never broke through, "The One That Got Away"..... What is your "One That Got Away" -- and what did you learn from that record?
Easy -- for me it was doubleDrive "Imprint," a tremendous and special song that I will never believe was anything less than a hit. I learned that if the song doesn't have proper backing, then it is out there on its own and is thus praying for a miracle to succeed. That one broke my heart!
7. What are the most important tools/resources you use to stay on top of the Rock formats' growth and constant daily changes?
Hey, I got my BDS, I got my Mediabase, I got my Soundscan and I got my All Access - what else do I need?
8. The lost art of artist development. What do you do to ensure your artist is building a career as opposed to just breaking a song? And does it even matter anymore?
I have always believed that artist development is beyond pivotal to the music biz and that is why I am so proud of spending most of my career at Roadrunner - a label that TRULY believes in artist development. It's about singles choices and making sure that you pick songs that are not only hits, but that do not speed along too fast and that accurately portray what the band is. It's about staying with a song until you KNOW that it's time to move on. It's about going for more than one song.
9. Are you finding that today's "baby" bands are getting a fair shot at radio and, more importantly, are they being given the airplay they need to break through to the masses and be recognized?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no, but some things never change. In lighter traffic times we can fight for more spins and stick with songs longer ... and then a wave of big names comes along and radio has to find room - guess who loses - the baby bands. Look, working baby bands is hard, but it's necessary. There was a time when Nickelback hadn't sold a record in America ... everyone starts somewhere.
10. What is the strangest record you ever worked and what ended up happening to the band?
Well, I might have to go with Type O Negative - the "goth-metal" band with the eight to 12-minute long songs back before Active Rock even existed as a name. That was the band that put Roadrunner (and me) into the commercial radio world; many programmers thought I had two heads for even suggesting they play it. They were a massive reaction band and went on to be the label's first Gold record and second Platinum record.