10 Questions with ... Mark Abramson
August 7, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Starting in '90, I was a Metal radio intern at Roadrunner Records, which led to full-time at Roadrunner Records doing metal radio promo. Started commercial radio department at Roadrunner; after seven years left to go to The Enclave. The Enclave shut down and so I went to TVT Records for two-and-a-half years. Left there to go back home at Roadrunner -- been back for around 12 years now.
1. What made you want to get into the music business? Early mentors? First job?
As long as I can remember I have been a music guy. But the path that led to the biz started with my local metal radio show; I remember listening to Fingers metal shop and wanting to do that ... be a DJ. I went to college to get a broadcast degree and it was doing the metal radio show on WBNY in Buffalo that led me to swerve and want to get into the label side. So, I quit college to be an intern at Roadrunner -- it was an all-in gamble! So, that internship led to my first job, which was Roadrunner.
My early mentors would be my first boss Kathie Merritt, the owner of RR (Cees Wessels) and then Valerie DeLong, who I worked for at The Enclave and who changed my life!
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 need a story, something to prove/show that there is something going on. It can vary as stories come in different forms. It can be ticket sales; it can be sales or downloads or YouTube views. The more of a history you build, the more of a base you can lean on with history -- but you need something. If you have certain stations, it can help for sure, or research is good, or even mScore, which I personally think is a scary tool, but I will use it if radio does ... it's not up to me.
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?
How do I inspire them? Easy! I promise to be their best friend!
4. Some of us our lucky enough to work with artists that we worshipped as civilians. As a longtime fan, what has it been like working with Rush and being a part of another successful chapter in their long career?
You know, the way I have been explaining it to people is this: It's the dream I never thought possible come true! Rush are the first band I ever saw live and one of the absolute most important bands in my life. So, just to say they are my band is mind-blowing. Then, they go and deliver such an amazing on-fire record as this and it just gets better! I mean, this was a huge sledgehammer reminder of just how lucky I am to do what I do for a living. Then, we gave them the best charting track in the history of the Active Rock format as well as a Top 5 Rock track and #1 Classic Rock track. Now, we are on the follow-up and I hope we deliver on that as well. I haven't actually sat with them yet as their head of Rock radio; I have to keep kicking ass so that when that happens it's all I am dreaming of, ha ha.
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?
This is a real problem in this business. It does indeed take longer to get records to research, but everyone is trying to move faster ... it's counter-productive. I have had people question records of mine at the first time we were without a bullet! You just have to keep the information flowing, keep radio feeling the progress and the belief that the label has in the band, that the label is going to back it.
6. 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?
Does it matter? It always did matter and I believe it matters NOW more than ever! With the business the way it is, it takes longer to break a band and it takes more to get people's attention, so thinking you can break through on just one single or two is unrealistic. Some great examples are that Theory of a Deadman broke through on their third record; we are on our 3rd Black Stone Cherry record and making real headway with songs that are researching and downloading. You have to have bands with depth and make the commitment to go several singles deep. You can do this cheaper than back in the day, so you can do this. I mean we recently put out our 4th Trivium record and are really JUST starting their radio career. You also should choose singles that have the big picture in mind and that will help develop the band as well as move units. In the case of, say, a Nickelback, we kept bringing real ROCK songs to the Rock format so that they could maintain their Rock credibility despite all the crossover success.
7. What is the strangest record you ever worked and what ended up happening to the band?
Well, you could argue that some of my earlier Roadrunner campaigns could qualify. I mean Type O Negative were a Goth-metal band whose singles started off as nine and 11-minute long songs. They wound up as the label's first old release, got us into the commercial radio world and really established the start of my career in commercial radio. Of course one, could also bring up the Sepultura track (metal song, not in English) or the Cradle of Filth track that I worked, ha ha
8. In an age of Skype, Facebook and Twitter, how often do you travel and is it still an important way to maintain relationships?
We all still travel quite a bit although there are actually times that I find that I need to get out there more and times I need to stop, ha ha. Nothing will ever replace the face-to-face hang time for the strengthening of relationships. I use Facebook a lot; I maintain group pages for both Active Rock and Metal that helps with information flow. I have recently started the RR Rock twitter account and try and use that as much as I can.
9. Are live shows still an important marketing tool? Who are some of the best live artists you've worked with?
A great Rock band HAS to be great live. I am sorry; that, to me, is just a fact of life! I have had the great fortune to work with some amazing live bands. Slipknot, of course, are one of the best ever! Nickelback are great live, as are Black Stone Cherry. Rush are better now than they were for ages! I mean, I have worked with the likes of Korn, Rob Zombie and Kenny Wayne Shepherd - amazing, all of them. Type O Negative were awesome! When I was at TVT, I got to work with the mighty Sevendust - still amazing live ... always!
10. What artists are you currently working with and how are you approaching the plan for their success this year?
Right now I am working with Black Stone Cherry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rush, Theory of a Deadman and about to start Stone Sour and Machine Head. Black Stone Cherry is quintessential artist development - we have stuck with them and keep seeing the development and growth and the connection is finally paying off. Skynyrd and Rush are just treats to me -- getting to work with them both ... awesome! Stone Sour is about to deliver an ass-kicking Active Rock mofo as lead track to a brilliant artistic vision and Machine Head are Roadrunner legends with a very compelling song that Active Rock just SHOULD play.