10 Questions with ... Del Williams & Gary Spivack
May 14, 2013
1. Del, you had a long and successful career in record promotion. What made you want to get into the music business? Who were some of your early mentors?
I loved the process of breaking/developing artists. Being part of a plan to create a hit song and establish a career was exciting to me. As a child, I was fascinated by Top 40 charts, Album charts, and how songs developed into national hits. This is going to sound a bit arrogant, but I didn't really have any mentors in the record business. I had respect for self-made people. At PolyGram, where I started, I respected David Leach, Brenda Romano, Kyle Hetherington and Katie Arnold. At Elektra, I admired Ray Gmeiner for his ability to create strong relationships and trust with radio programmers, artists, and artist managers, and I admired Bob Krasnow for his vision and independent spirit.
2. Gary, what made you want to get into the music business? Who were some of your early mentors?
I was a drummer and I felt like it was going nowhere fast. I had a college degree from the University of Colorado and my Dad bought me a briefcase and said "get to work, boy." So I sold out and it's one of truly great regrets of my entire life. If I HAD to get a day job it might as well have been in the music industry, damn it. Brad Hunt, God bless him and curse him at the same time, gave me a shot to be a local for 24k a year in San Francisco for the famed Elektra Records. I covered a Motley Crue/Faster Pussycat show in Fresno and the rest is history. Mentors to this day include: Bill Graham, Michael Lang, Cliff Bernstein, Warren Christensen, Kevin Weatherly, Steve Kingston, Oedipus, Marc Geiger, Danny Wimmer, Joe Litvag and Del Williams.
3. Can both of you tell us your first music job and give us a run down of the labels and positions you've held over the years?
Del: I started as a Regional Promotion Manager for a five-state region in the Rocky Mt. West for PolyGram. After a short time, I was lured away by Elektra Records to become a West Coast Regional Manager. I was in that position for about a year-and-a-half and then asked to move to NYC, where I became Sr. Dir./Promotion. When my contract was up with Elektra, I had offers from two labels for similar positions, but I chose to start my own business (A.R.M.S Division) and it was one of the smartest decisions I ever made.
Gary: Elektra Records, then MCA Records as Head Of Alternative, Atlantic Records in NY, then Capitol Records as Head of Rock &Alt, Geffen Records and then Right Arm.
4. What was the origin of Right Arm Entertainment? When and how did you guys come together to form this company?
Del: A.R.M.S. Division (Alternative Radio Marketing Strategies) was a very successful independent promotion company, and during its evolution, I started to create live events for radio stations. It didn't take long for me to build a significant roster of radio events that necessitated starting a new entity -- a subsidiary of ARMS Division. That subsidiary became Right Arm Talent & Concert Division, LLC. Gary Spivack and I have been friends ever since we met at Elektra and he threw me that alley-oop pass at the front of the rim during a pick-up game in San Francisco. He has always been a big concert enthusiast and he really admired what I had started at Right Arm. When his contract at Geffen was on the verge of lapsing, he had hit a crossroads and we discussed becoming partners and growing the live events business together. Our goal was to create an independent live events network that would encapsulate our wisdom, experience, and passion. That partnership morphed into Right Arm Entertainment, Inc..
Gary: Del and I met at Elektra in 1990. He was a national and came to visit SF when I was a rookie. I gave him an alley-op in a pickup basketball game in SF and it's been a marriage ever since. We waited for years to partner up together as he already started Right Arm and then I came aboard after my run at Geffen to help expand the concert and entertainment division some eight years ago. Dang -- eight years ago.
5. What is the basic business model for Right Arm Entertainment?
Gary: Right Arm is a full-service concert boutique company and our lane is ROCK N ROLL. Though we do shows in all formats including many format leading alternative radio festivals around the country as well as pop, country and crossover. But our expertise is rock. Del can speak to our goal in the Country world as he has big plans.
6. What can we look forward to from Right Arm Entertainment in the future? Care to share any exciting new ventures with All Access?
Del: You will see more live events from us in the Rock world and an expansion into Country. I truly believe that, in many ways, Country is the new Rock. That is a discussion that is too big for this questionnaire.
7. Okay, let's talk about what Right Arm is up to in 2013. Besides Rock On The Range, what other major concert festivals are you guys promoting?
Del: RAE co-owns and produces several other large festival brands -- Carolina Rebellion in Charlotte, Epicenter in L.A., Rock Allegiance in PA, along with booking Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, Aftershock in Sacramento, and the Big Ticket in Jacksonville. Those three shows are with our dear friend and partner Danny Wimmer of Danny Wimmer Presents. We are working on several other festival events that will launch in late 2013 and 2014. We also co-produce over 30 annual radio shows in the U.S. and Canada.
8. How long have you been doing the Rock On The Range shows and how did this major festival come together?
Del: This is the seventh year for ROTR. The genesis of the concept for ROTR was a conversation that Danny Wimmer and I had while on a road trip in Northern California. We felt that there was a huge void for a Rock festival in the heart of America. We came back from that trip and discussed with Gary and put together a plan to action. It was a great story of seeing your vision to fruition and having the courage to follow your gut.
Gary: ROTR is now a full three-day multi-stage destination festival that's truly a gathering of the rock tribe. The fans, who dubbed themselves The Rangers, are really one of a kind. Makes us feel so humbled and proud to wave the rock 'n' roll flag 365 days a year. ROTR draws from all over the world. Though its home is Columbus over 70% of ticket sales are from outside the Columbus area. Del, Danny and I hooked up and we all basically said the same thing. "Where is the great ROCK festival in America?" There are some great Alt-leaning fests like Coachella, Lolla, Bonaroo but none were serving that down the middle rock audience. We wanted to serve the undeserved. We then teamed up with Joe Litvag and his ace staff at AEG Live found a great home at the Crew Stadium and seven years later ROTR has become the #1 rock destination weekend festival in North America.
9. This week is ROTR 2013. What are some of the highlights we can look forward to this weekend in Columbus, OH?
Del: I know Gary is touching on most of this, but it is extremely cool that Soundgarden and Alice In Chains are playing a festival together. Lamb of God will be monumental, as well. Breaking it down formatically, ROTR 2013 is quintessential to keeping the festival balanced with compelling Rock, Active Rock, Alt Rock, and Metal.
Gary: This year out of all the years has been both the most rewarding and the most trying. We attempted to pull off something special by having icons Alice In Chains and Soundgarden share the same stage and then along with heroes Smashing Pumpkins, Korn, Cheap Trick and Bush; we then combined that with Lamb Of God, A Day To Remember, Volbeat and tons more to make the spectrum of rock complete. ROTR has been able to cast a wider net than other rock festivals as we've grown over the years. This year was at times a painful process but we all look forward to the fruits of our labor come May 17th-19th. Cannot wait!
10. Right Arm works closely with Rock Radio stations across the country. What's your honest take on Rock radio in 2013?
Del: We believe in Rock radio. The stations that are staying in touch with their audience, concentrating on being relevant to local interests, and recognizing real movements in music are going to be successful. It is important to keep creating new ways to stimulate the audience and be part of a lifestyle. I think many of the Rock radio stations that attend ROTR have that objective.
Gary: There still in 2013 is not a better way to reach a target audience as quick and immediate about a festival or show than Rock radio. We have massive respect for broadcasters and what they do on a daily if not hourly basis. But I wish Rock radio would ... wait for it ... wake up. I love that most of them really do live the lifestyle and that is crucial but they better start embracing bands of today/tomorrow. It's in Rock radio's hands to be leaders and be pro-active -- not just re-active. Bands like A Day To Remember, Asking Alexandria, Falling In Reverse, Black Veil Brides have real fan bases than go outside the norm. New rock bands like Scorpion Child, Rival Sons and Nothing More have real potential. They are out there, man -- just gotta dig deeper than normal. I love how they have hooked onto to Volbeat, Halestorm and a couple others. But Rock radio needs to continue to champion more and not rest on their past glory.
Del, when you're not in Rock mode, what other music or artists do you enjoy outside this "format"?
I am simply a music fanatic. I love all types of music. People that know me really well, know that I am crazy for classic soul and classic country music. Some of the newer artists that I love are Natalie Duncan, Mayer Hawthorne, Gary Clark Jr., and Dead Sara. I am happy to say that there are many new artists that I enjoy.
Gary, what was the first album or single you purchased on your own?
First album was two on the same day at Records West in Culver City. Fleetwood Mac Rumors and The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl. First single was "My Sharona." What a smash.