10 Questions with ... Joe Guzik
July 14, 2015
1. What made you want to get into the music business? Who were some of your early mentors?
I was a Sony College Rep in the late '90s. When I would walk the Columbia Records floor of the Sony Building (25), I was in awe. You could feel the energy, excitement and passion for artists when the elevator doors opened. Even then as a college student, I knew this was a special place where the greatest executives worked tirelessly to bring artists to the world.
They made a real difference every day and I wanted to as well. I think about my 10 years there and I'm in awe of the titans of the business that I learned from -- Don Ienner, Rob Stringer, Steve Barnett, Charlie Walk, Rocky, Stu Bergen, Cliff Bernstein, Daniel Glass, to name a few. I'm sure I missed so many people that had a profound impact on my thinking. I can tell you that a day doesn't go by when I'm confronted with a difficult decision where I don't think of one of these gentlemen and say "What would they do?"
2. What was your first job and give us a rundown of the labels and positions you've held over the years?
Sony College Rep, National Director Roadrunner Records, VP Columbia Records, SVP Red Bull Records
3. You worked at Columbia Records for many years. Can you give us some of the highlights of those years and major bands you had a hand in breaking?
I say one of the most important decisions you'll ever make as "Record People" is single choices. This guides the whole world's marketing mix. It's a super-stressful and sometimes painful process because so much is riding on your outcome. There are a ton of stakeholders with different motivations but taking your time to get this right while aligning everyone's incentives produces the biggest results. It's become a science with equations for me that I keep trying to refine it each day to stack the probabilities in our artists favor.
Below are highlights of some of the single sequences that were successful. BTW, I didn't always agree but these are some of the ones that worked out and I'd like to think I learned from each one. They all have awesome stories. If you're interested I'll buy you a beer and tell you how they came to be. Just hit me up.
- Slipknot: Slip it Out --> Wait and Bleed
- SOAD: Chop Suey --> Toxicity --> Aeriels
- MGMT: Time To Pretend --> Electric Feel --> Kids
- AWOLNATION: Sail --> Not Your Fault --> Kill Your Heroes (album I)
- AWOLNATION*: Hollow Moon --> I AM --> TBA (*album II - exponentially harder to get right!)
4. Now let's talk about Red Bull Records. How long have you been working for them and what are the advantages of working for a major brand that just got into the record business less than 10 years ago?
I first started to learn about Red Bull in business school. You can't go through any marketing class without at least one case study on the firm. Red Bull as a brand is just breathtaking. It's all on Red Bull's YouTube to see. Just ask one of our artists about the advantages. I guarantee they will wax poetically about Red Bull Records.
I've been with Red Bull Records about four years. It's a place where you have the opportunity to be entrepreneurial and to think differently. It's not by accident that AWOLNATION's "Sail" is the longest independent running hit in the history of the Billboard's Hot 100. I'm lucky I get to come to work every day discussing and dreaming about grand visions for our artists with smart, patient record guys, namely Greg Hammer and David Burrier, then we all work as efficiently as possible to execute.
5. Let's talk about some of the bands on Red Bull Records starting with AWOLNATION. It must be very gratifying to see the success of this band the label nurtured from the beginning.
Aaron Bruno from AWOLNATION is an amazing creative force. He has vision, understands his fans, and the business. I enjoy working with Aaron and his managers Berko and Scott Sheldon to navigate an ever changing business landscape. The techniques we used on album #1, "Megalithic Symphony" would never work today on album #2, "Run." As with all creative endeavors, most decisions are not black and white. And, I'm most proud that album #2, "Run," is being received well by both consumers and the industry. I can't wait for "I Am" to unfold. We have big plans for that song and a long-term plan for "Run."
I'm also stoked to get back to the hard rock and metal community with Beartooth. We modeled a lot of the marketing around the frame work of thinking that we used for Slipknot back in 1999. Again, none of those old techniques apply but the framework of thought to reach a consumer remains the same. I'm proud to say Beartooth's "In Between" is Top 30 at Active Rock growing in sales, airplay and research every day. It's #1 Research at Octane and selling like a Top 10-charted song! I also think by the time Beartooth starts touring with Slipknot in October, Active Rock will be proud to break another new generation's hard rock band for the next decade to come!
6. On the Rock side, you made a major impact with the first full length record from Britain's Heaven's Basement. Can you give us an update on the latest from this talented rock band?
Heaven's Basement is hard at work on their sophomore release. We laid a great foundation and many champions with the debut album. I've heard some incredible demos. When the guys are finished, I promise you we'll have some great songs that will make them a household rock name all over the world!
7. Now let's talk about Beartooth. There's really a buzz around this band especially with the latest single "In Between." You must be thrilled with their early success?
Beartooth is just a special band. They made a special record. For a band this heavy, Top 30 at Active Rock is major milestone. I'm proud we have several champions at Active Rock paving the way with research and sales. I know "In Between" will go all the way.
8. You've been in the record promotion business for a long time. What are the most important tools/resources you use to stay on top of the Rock formats' growth and constant daily changes?
Relationships are still the most important tool along with your credibility. Can you get someone to listen to the narrative that you weave for your artists? Does that person think you can achieve it? As you said in your question, formats and trends constantly change but what doesn't change are the people who love music and gravitate to each other for continued success.
9. Let's talk about the Rock format as a whole. What's your take on the state of Rock radio today?
As the world decides to stream more and more, Radio has become more valuable than ever to set the trends for rock music. Never has a Rock PD had more paint to choose from to draw his art. You can choose from an amazing array of new music from classic, recurrent, or new artists. You can lean mainstream, hard or alternative or mix it up however you wish. It's an amazing time to sound uniquely like your marketplace and to set the trends that everyone will follow online.
10. Finally, what does the future hold for Red Bull Records? Any new bands or projects in the works you can talk about?
Red Bull Records is only a few years in. I love to think about a time when 100 years from now, it'll be celebrating its Centennial year in business. Just think about what the article in Billboard might say? Amazing to think about, isn't it?
What do you like to do for fun and relaxation when you're not in "work" mode??
I read a lot! I probably have six books going at a time. I always want to learn something new. Here are just three I'm currently reading: Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer, Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos, and How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenburg.