10 Questions with ... Steve Walker
January 27, 2015
1. What was your first music industry job, and who were your early mentors?
My first industry job was covering the public affairs shift at KBER in Salt Lake City. The door was open, ever so slightly, for my entry into the madness by Bill May, who currently programs Sixx Sense at Premiere Networks. I ran through the door, tripped, fell and broke my nose but I never looked back. Bill was the PD at the time, and became a great friend and supporter as I navigated my way from the station's public affairs programs, weekends and then full-time as a night jock. I have to admit, I was the second-worst DJ at the station (sorry, Sly!).
2. Can you give us a brief history of your Music Industry background?
I left Salt Lake for the traffic of Los Angeles, and guess where I ended up? Sleeping on Bill May's couch in Hermosa Beach! My first music industry job was at Enigma Records, in Culver City, with really great mentors like Sam Kaiser, the late Mike Krum and Jon Kirksey (RIP, my friends). I guess we were having too much fun, because Capitol Records, a majority owner, closed the doors and made us all go home. While sitting at home, I got a call from Bob Catania (I love that guy) at Charisma Records, so I shaved my goatee (inside joke) and moved to Seattle in February of '91, and enjoyed being right smack in the middle of the grunge explosion (yes, I have stories). I worked for Virgin Records with Jeffrey Naumann, who taught me things that I do not want my children to know about. I also learned not to go on tour with the Rolling Stones and John Boulos at the same time. I had a great time working for Dawn Hood and Mikaiel Whited at ARTISTdirect, before launching RadioContraband.
3. Can you give us the origin and brief history of RadioContraband?
I would like to say that RadioContraband is a labor of love, but it was created out of boredom. Gary Allen at KHTQ and I talked about the missing rock community. We wanted to try something new and wanted it to be a passion-based platform. It made sense, that if it was passion-based, it would be a community, and include a celebration of "all things rock." We created the awards and a gathering, thus the convention. None of this would be possible, if not for the incredible commitment from my partner and friend Beatrix Danko and the tireless effort from Quinn Tanzer.
4. Now let's talk about the RadioContraband Convention this week in Las Vegas: What are some of the highlights of the daily panels this week?
Highlight ... well, first of all, what happens in Vegas, at the RadioContraband convention, does NOT stay in Vegas! It ends up all over the Internet! This year is going to include one of our attendee's favorite panels, the "Rate the Wine, Rate the Music" panel. It is hosted by the Cappellinis and features wine from Sommerston Estate. Dexter and Noodles, from The Offspring, are taking over a panel to play their new track for radio. The panel includes an interview with Lou Brutus. Troy Hanson is coming in to talk about our changing format, and Mark Abramson will continue with the Rock Manifesto discussion that we started back in October. It created some great and passionate conversation. Mark's panelists will all be wearing yoga pants! Nicole Slater, from Slacker, will lead a panel on old-school radio vs. new-music streaming services. This will include social media, and how it functions in a terrestrial environment. Other panels include "Radio Is Everything," moderated by Drew Hauser, and the "Economics of Business," hosted by Mark Scribner. We kick off the panels on Thursday with a keynote by Gregg Steele, from SiruisXM.
5. You also have some pretty cool music showcases set for the Hard Rock each night. Who are some of the Rock artists that are performing this week?
We kick off the band performances at the Hard Rock on Thursday, with a cool acoustic set with Like A Storm, followed by a great band out of Canada called ONE. Otherwise and Adelitas Way will co-headline the event. Rick from Adelitas Way has been a very big champion for our event, and we are really excited to have his continued support. Friday we will be in the Crossroads Room at the House of Blues with Fall to June, Hinder and Acidic, with very special guest, Rusty Anderson. Some of you might have seen him recently on the Paul McCartney tour ... get ready for some Hendrix!
6. Let's talk about the "community" of Rock radio stations and labels. What makes this format seem like such a big, dysfunctional family?
I am a student of psychology, so when you start throwing out conveniently descriptive words like "dysfunctional," I stop and think about the true meaning of the question. The universe is dysfunctional, and since we are such a small part of the overall dysfunctional universe, I would hope we could stop taking ourselves so seriously, and embrace the community, because we all love the music. Labels: Start delivering music that you are passionate about! And radio: Start returning calls ... communicate! We are in this together!
7. Speaking of the Rock Radio community, can you give us the scoop on this week's RadioContraband Rock Radio awards?
The awards are amazing to watch. The way people communicate during the nominations, and then the voting period, is fun and creative. The awards are a peer-based event. The community is responsible for the nominations and the voting for the top-five nominees for the winners of each category. It is our fourth year for the awards, so we have some four-time winners. They will be retired as "grand champion four-time category winner" with a special plaque. We are also going to sacrifice all four-time winners to the gods of "all things rock," or maybe some other gods, since most gods and goddesses are all-powerful, spiteful, and most of all, nymphomaniacs. I am sure it will be cool! At this year's event, we will introduce the new Rock Radio Hall Of Fame with our first inductees! Man, we are awesome!
8. Now, let's talk about the Rock format as a whole, particularly Active Rock. What's your take on the music and artists at the format today?
The last couple of years seem to be faceless, but I think that is about to change. The bands emerging from 2014, and poised to move into the new year, have a much more interesting presence. Maybe this is a year that is less about the sonics of the music -- and more about creativity and substance. Rock is a viable genre. When you think about the shifts in music, it was from social change and a search for a new social identity. Rock music was always at the forefront of a changing society. In the current broadcasting environment, it is safer to play the music that fits, but maybe it is time to play the music that matters!
9. Give me three new Rock artists you think will break big at the format in 2015, and why?
Really?! Three?! How am I only to pick three? I had the exceptional opportunity to see Royal Blood, opening for the Pixies, (thank you, Heather Luke!) and was truly blown away. I think Aranda is about to deliver Rock a record that matches their live performance, which is spectacular! I get Nothing More, and yes, I know they had a #1 single at Rock, but I think they have a much bigger record in their future. I don't understand why Rock radio fights playing bands like Black Veil Brides, Motionless in White and Asking Alexandria (I know currently they have a top-10 track but come on, it should be #1 already!). Jave Patterson turned me on to Twelve Foot Ninja, and I love this band. I slept with one of the members of Pretty Reckless. I think they are going to be big!
10. Finally, we've all heard the silly "Rock Is Dead" mantra over the years, but several Rock stations have scored very nice gains in this recent Fall Book. What's your take on Rock Radio's future?
Rock is SOOOO not dead! I read Bobby Owsinski, (he is a music blogger who is often featured on forbes.com) and I am going to share from one of his recent posts: While it seems like a country and pop world when you listen to the radio, it's a completely different planet when it comes to total music consumption across all delivery platforms, according to a study by Nielsen Music. The study selected the top musical genres looking at albums, track equivalent albums (downloads) and streaming equivalent albums. This is what was found:
- Rock - 29%
- R&B/ Hip Hop - 17.2%
- Pop - 14.9%
- Country - 11.2%
- Dance/EDM - 3.4%
- Christian/Gospel - 3.1%
- Holiday/Seasonal - 2.6%
- Latin - 2.6%
- Jazz - 1.4%
- Classical - 1.4%
- Children - 1%
When it comes to actual album sales, Rock had a commanding lead over the next closest genre.
This goes to show that consumers of the Rock genre are used to buying albums and are still most comfortable consuming their music that way.
Rock is NOT dead. Thanks, Bob and ROCK ON! http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.com