10 Questions with ... Gabriella D'Agostino
June 3, 2014
1. What made you want to get into the radio and music business? Were there any early mentors?
Actually, it happened on accident but really was meant to be. My grandfather was a musician. He played with the Dorsey Brothers and his best friend was a guy named Nat King Cole. In the '40s and '50s, they played in a band together in San Diego. In my family, you either play the drums, the piano or sing. I have always been surrounded by music. My mother was an opera singer and one of my older brothers is an amazing singer and dancer. Blasting everything from Nina Simone to Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson and dancing around was a normality in our household.
2. You've had an interesting mix of radio and label jobs, but you started out in radio at KMBY in Monterey. How did you get your start there?
The two people who got me into radio and taught me everything are Jason LaChance and Kenny Allen. They met me when I was 19, in college and an avid fan of Alternative and Rock music. When Jason met me, we talked about Sevendust for about 20 minutes. We instantly knew we'd get along. But, I knew nothing of radio, so they made me their intern at KMBY. Soon after that, I hosted a new music show on the weekend then added middays and MD duties. They truly are the best and I loved every minute of working with them and learning the craft of radio.
3. Let's talk about your most recent gig at Music Choice. How was that experience for you?
I had a really great time at Music Choice; I made definite life-long friends and had a great mentor in Gary Susalis. I've never met anyone more caring and level-headed as a boss than Gary. Programming Alternative (and eventually Rock) was very natural and comfortable for me. I did learn the intricate dealings of the cable industry and that my friends, is a very interesting web. I'm thankful to have been able to build and shape stations that I was very proud of for the over 55 million households who listen to them.
4. Now ... let's move over to the label side of things. Can you give us a rundown of the record labels and positions you've held over the years?
Do we have time for this? Okay, here we go:
- Astralwerks & Caroline Records - College & Specialty Promo
- EMI Records - College & Specialty Promo
- Glassnote Records - Head of Promotion
- WBR - Video Promo Asst.
- Megaforce Records - Head of Promotion
5. Congratulations on your new position at MegaForce. What made you decide to leave the radio side and return to record promotion?
The main driver was I missed being on the side of the artist. Now, I know someone reading this just thought "awe, that's so juvenile" -- I will fight you. I truly mean that. This industry for decades has been a hodgepodge of snakes looking to get their teeth into an artist to make money off of them. The rest of us actually give a damn. I pride myself on being a person the artist can trust. This is their career and I have just as much at stake if I can't do my job well enough to give their career longevity. I've been surrounded by art and musicians my whole life and I believe that's what makes the world go 'round. When I met with Missi and Robert at MegaForce, I instantly felt that they had the same passion and drive as I did to support artists. It just made sense ... honestly.
6. Let's talk about some of the bands on MegaForce. What are your big priority projects right now?
Right now, it's a little hectic but that's a good thing! Mushroomhead, Against Me!, Fuel, Blue October, Iration, Bear Hands, Umphrey's McGee. Phew!
7. What else does the label have coming down the pipeline in the future?
Early June we'll be working with a new Rebelution single and album for the Alt side. I know that IAMDYNAMITE and Third Eye Blind are making new records. There are some other items being discussed and tossed around...
Mushroomhead "The Righteous & The Butterfly" had a great debut week. #20 Billboard Top 200, #5 Rock Album, #1 Hard Rock Album, #1 Independent Album. They are also playing the main stage at Mayhem Fest so we've got a lot of work to do with the first single, "Out of my Mind."
We are impacting the second Fuel single "Cold Summer" on June 10th and they are touring their tails off. Carolina Rebellion and ROTR were both fantastic plays for them ... I'm gonna keep these fellas workin'!
8. As a promotion person, what are the most important tools/resources you use to stay on top of the Rock formats' growth and constant daily changes?
To be quite honest, you have to talk to people. The programmers are the biggest resource for our jobs on this side of the fence. Day to day, they see the requests, the votes, the comments and they hear the voices of their audience. Sure, I can look at sales, Shazam, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Soundcloud ... it goes on for days! But talking to the stations and also being out on the road with the bands and seeing where the reactions are/what makes the audience tick, that's the best tool. Also, this sh*t ain't brain surgery; we're not saving lives. Take a breather.
9. Let's talk about the Rock format as a whole. What's your take on the state of Rock Radio today?
I don't know that you want me to answer this question. Ha! Rock is having to (very carefully) share some bands with Alternative and it's hard to know where to draw the line. When I was programming Rock at Music Choice ... I got anxious, I also got bored. I wanted a new sound, a new band ... I was pulling at straws to find something that really got my attention. Royal Blood and Nothing More did that for me. There are also bands who've been around for years, even decades, who still deserve a shot and still have avid fan bases. I will say, I was happy to see that Rock and Alt could get along sharing a new Pearl Jam album :)
10. What is the best live show you have seen this year and why?
Is this a trick question? Last September, I got engaged and four days later, destroyed my foot while surfing -- a lisfranc fracture, for all you football fans. October, I had my surgery and four days after surgery, I got on my knee scooter and went to two Pearl Jam shows. I thought nothing could beat that. Well, a couple weeks after that, I went to see Pearl Jam on Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy came over to me in the audience and signed my cast. Until the middle of February (when they took out the hardware), I couldn't walk, I worked from home and didn't go to any shows besides PJ. When I finally got back on my feet (literally), I came over to MegaForce to "do promo" and I went to see Against Me! at Webster Hall here in NYC. You should see the video I took. It was pure insanity and I left that show feeling so overwhelmingly excited to be doing what I am here.
I understand your favorite band is Pearl Jam. What do you think of their latest album "Lightning Bolt?"
Maybe I've alluded to my absolute adoration of PJ somewhere in these answers. Eddie Vedder is my Jesus. Deal with it. Right before Lightning Bolt came out, my fiance and I went to see them play at Wrigley Field in Chicago. That show is actually the best thing I've ever gone to. Getting the album and hearing what they'd created, I was so proud -- if only I knew them, that would make more sense. They're a force to be reckoned with.
What do you like to do for fun and relaxation when you're not in your "work" mode?
I grew up in the mountains, so I love exploring and being outdoors. Also, I live within an arms reach of the best city in the world. NYC never runs out of truly amazing things to see and do. I go to a lot of concerts ... I really do love live shows. I also spend a lot of time getting back to CA to see my brothers along with my niece and nephew. Also what is "work" mode -- I'm not a used car salesman ... This isn't work! This is my job; it just happens to be f-ing rad.