10 Questions with ... Gabby Canella
October 27, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Roadrunner Records - 2012
- Music Choice - 2013-present
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
My first experience in radio goes back to my college station out of Seton Hall University, 89.5 FM WSOU. It's because of that station that I am where I am today and even decided to pursue music as a career in the first place. WSOU set me up for some great internship experiences at The Syndicate and SiriusXM, which further solidified my passion for working in radio. I completed the trifecta of learning programming, promoting and marketing music after working at Roadrunner Records. At WSOU I served as a DJ and MD, where much of what I learned has transferred to my current job at Music Choice.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it?"
During my freshman year at Seton Hall, I was dead-set on being an English major. I joined WSOU purely as a hobby, but after spending some time at the station and getting to host my own show as a DJ, I quickly realized how much fun doing radio was and changed career paths. Music has always been a deep passion of mine, so making a career out of it was something I didn't think twice about.
I think one of the defining moments when it finally sank in that I picked the right career path was during the Big 4 concert at Yankee Stadium. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax were performing during their select U.S. tour run. I was one of the lucky chosen few to interview Chris Broderick (now formerly of Megadeth) backstage at one of the most prestigious ballparks and then watch him and the rest of the legendary bands perform. It was surreal to talk to him and to walk around backstage at Yankee Stadium. As both a Yankees fan and a metal fan, that was quite a day!
3) How long have you been at Music Choice and what are your main responsibilities there?
I've been at Music Choice for almost three years. I program Rock and Metal across all of Music Choice's platforms, including our recently launched video channels that are available to stream on our app and website. I also curate all of the Rock and Metal videos available On-Demand. My main responsibility is maintaining the Rock and Metal audio channels and selecting the best new music to add each week.
One of the nice things about Music Choice is that we are commercial-free and stream completely uninterrupted, which allows for so much more room to break new artists and feature more music. Our weekly cume for the Active Rock channel is over 4 million listeners and Metal has over 2.5 million fans that tune in weekly. While my main musical taste may be a bit aggressive, don't let that fool you; I also program the '70s, '80s, '90s and Party Favorites channels.
4) Can you give us more details on Music Choice? How many formats does the service have and how many homes are you streaming into?
Music Choice is available in 50 million cable households nationally. We currently have 50 different music channels available on TV that cover everything: Rock, Pop, Blues, Jazz, Latin, Rap, Hip-Hop, Kids music, International and more. Later this year, we'll be launching an additional 25 audio channels on our app and website. I've built three of those channels that I'm incredibly excited about: 'Classic Metal' (roots of the genre and metal staples), "80s Rock' (all your favorite hair bands), and something different called 'Emo X Screamo' (the best of emo, screamo, pop-punk, and post hardcore).
On-Demand we offer over 500 music videos from all different genres. Annually we aggregate over 1 billion views, making us the #1 free on-demand provider. We also have Music Choice original shows and artist interviews.
We've recently increased our number of video channels on mobile devices. There are currently 25 different video channels, from all different genres, that play a continuous stream of music videos, as well as exclusive content and artist interviews. We're excited to offer Rock fans something unique to take on the go with them.
Lastly, we have a linear network called Music Choice Play. Play combines music videos and artist interviews, hosts countdown and themed shows, and incorporates fan engagement.
While you can find Music Choice right on your TV, you can also take us anywhere you go on our newly redesigned app. Our audio channels, video channels, music videos and Play are all conveniently located on the app.
5) Describe your weekly music meeting for both the Active and Metal formats? Approximately how important by percentage is gut, research, sales, video play and chart position when determining the status of a record?
For programming the audio channels, I take everything into account when considering new music. I'm always scoping out blogs and listener reaction on social media to understand what listeners are latching onto and to find emerging artists. I check charts every week and while chart position is important, it may not necessarily mean that a song will fit on a channel. Ticket sales are also interesting to consider and tell an important story. While I weigh all of the data that's available, my gut reaction is something I always trust above all else. At the end of the day, I always try to program what I think my listeners will enjoy best.
The other side of programming that I do for On-Demand and the video channels is very different. It's a unique task to curate our video selection because the On Demand audience is different from the audio channel audience. Just because a song goes #1 at Rock radio and becomes a hit on the audio channel does not necessarily translate to it being the #1 most-watched video. I also have a select number of videos I can program On-Demand, so I always have to choose which videos to program carefully. I consult online views for comparison, but the most effective way to program is to really understand my VOD audience and program what I know they enjoy watching the most.
6) What's your take on current Active Rock music? Is it as good as six months or a year ago, better, or about the same?
Rock is always evolving and remaining relevant in the world of music. Rock and Metal have the most loyal and passionate fan bases. For the fans, myself included, this is not just a genre of music -- it's something we eat, sleep and breathe. For that reason, I don't think Rock will ever go away. Rock tours are continuing to sell out around the country. Just think of all the festivals we have: Rock On The Range, Rocklahoma, Carolina Rebellion, Knotfest, Aftershock -- the list goes on and on. Not to mention that even though album sales are not what they used to be, Rock still holds out strong with the likes of Five Finger Death Punch, Bring Me The Horizon, Disturbed and more landing within the top 10. This past summer alone has seen so many chart-topping sellers, which is great for the format. As long as Rock continues to be genuine and passionate, the fans will continue to be there. Don't listen to any nonsense: rock is not dead!
7) Are there any Metal bands you are now playing on Music Choice that you think can cross over to getting regular airplay on Active Rock Radio?
It's amazing to see so many bands grow and prosper between the formats. Over the past few years, we've seen the success stories with Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Volbeat, Asking Alexandria, and now Bring Me The Horizon and Trivium, among others. These bands are vital to reaching younger listeners and helping the format continue to move forward. It also puts the "active" in Active Rock and gives this format some balls! Another band that will make a splash is Parkway Drive. I've been a fan of theirs for a long time, but their new song "Vice Grip" is helping to take them to that next level. It's such a catchy and anthemic song and pushes the boundaries of Rock. I can't wait to see who will tip the scales next.
8) What are your three favorite artists or songs of this past year and why?
That is a very hard question to answer, given all of the great new music we've had this year. I would say my three favorite songs of the year are:
- Disturbed - "The Vengeful One"- Disturbed were one of the first heavy bands I got into. I was so happy to see them return this year and I couldn't have asked for a better comeback album from them. This is a great Rock song and has that classic Disturbed sound we've come to know and love.
- Slipknot "Killpop" - One of my top-five favorite bands. This band has always meant so much to me and I've enjoyed every album they've put out. This was a song I pushed to be a single because I think it's such a standout song and very reminiscent of "Vermillion."
- Lamb of God "512" - Also one of my top five bands. Right off the bat, this is such a catchy and groovy song. It has the familiar and beloved LOG feel to it, while continuing to break new ground. After all the hardship front man Randy has endured recently, it was nice to see the band return without missing a single beat from where they left off.
All of these picks have also made our yearly MC 100 countdown, airing 11/27.
9) Who are some of your favorite new artists?
There have been so many talented and hardworking bands on the rise recently. These are just some of the many new artists I've become hooked on. Nothing More continues to impress and captivate me with each new song they put out and each time I see them live. If you haven't seen them in concert yet, you definitely need to!
Red Sun Rising is a new favorite from this year. The first time I heard "The Otherside," I was instantly hooked. They've got a great sound reminiscent of Alice In Chains. I was very happy to see them go #1 on the charts recently and I think they will be back with more chart toppers.
Like A Storm are some of the nicest New Zealanders I've ever met. I've enjoyed their new album and love the incorporation of the digeridoo, which brings a very cool and unique flavor to their sound.
One other great band you've got to check out live is Starset. They're incredibly talented and have such a great atmosphere when performing. I love the space theme and their overall look.
10) You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have five CDs with you. What are they?
This is a very tough question. I'll narrow it down the best I can:
- Metallica "Ride The Lightning"
- Killswitch Engage "The End of Heartache"
- Slipknot self-titled
- Lamb of God "Ashes Of The Wake"
- Three Days Grace self-titled