10 Questions with ... Lorraine Caruso
January 12, 2016
1. What made you want to get into the radio and music business? Were there any early mentors?
I have always loved radio since I was a kid. Growing up in NY, radio was very exciting, I was a total geek. I started out in college radio and got an internship at WNEW. My earliest mentors were Charlie Kendall, Maxanne Sartori and the legendary Scott Muni. I had blind ambition, not really knowing that I was starting my career in the #1 market, and at one of the biggest, most progressive radio stations in the country. I just wanted to be at the station that I grew up listening to.
2. Early in your career, you worked at the legendary WNEW/New York. What years did you work there and what positions did you hold?
I basically worked for free as an intern making myself available to do anything. Starting in the programming department. That was my interest. I got to the point where I was there 30 hours a week ... Kendall started giving me commuting money out of his own pocket. I rose through the ranks, working with many amazing PDs over the years; Mark Chernoff, Ted Utz, Dave Logan ... I went from intern to assistant, AMD, MD, MD/APD. It was a magical place; then the station started to lose its focus. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a nomadic PD; that was my next stop, so I started to shift my next chapter working for the music industry.
3. How did working in radio prepare you for doing record promotion?
Working for radio really did prepare me to do promotion. I knew what was important for radios needs; I knew demographics, market competition and all about competitive radio politics; I knew how I liked to do good business with people, I knew from my own experience how I liked to be promoted. Being a person of your word and following up, and being respectful of people's time.
4. Give us a rundown of the record labels and positions you've held over the years?
I clearly remember the day I got a call from Jack Isquith. He was heading Alternative promotion at A&M Records. He said, "How would you like to leave the #1 radio market and work with me doing Alt promotion?" I was very excited about this prospect, as I knew the format was going to explode, in the first year doing promotion it went from about 15 stations to 80+. I wanted to be apart of its growth; if I couldn't be in radio anymore, I wanted to grow and be apart of a burgeoning format. I loved the music; it was an exciting time and amazing place to work. I learned a lot from amazing people at A&M. Al Cafaro, Rick Stone & Lori Holder-Anderson were also tremendous mentors to me ... Another magical independent place, which eventually got merged. From there I wanted to know and learn about the big pop machine, and went to Jive Records working with Joe Riccitelli. I learned so much there heading Alternative promotion. From there to Windup Records, working with Shanna Fischer as Sr Dir./Promotion, with main focus heading Alternative and Triple A and backing up the Active Rock formats.
5. How long have you been working for the Mascot Label Group and what are your primary responsibilities for the label?
I have been here a little over two years. This is another great challenge for me. It's a Dutch-based company looking to grow in North America. Ron Burman came over from Roadrunner to be President of North America. He, along with the President/owner Ed van Zijl, brought me in to be VP/Promotion and Marketing ... I may be working harder than ever before, but love working for an international company, with an entrepreneurial spirit along with working to contribute to growing their company and brand in America.
6. Along with your Rock projects, you also do Promotion for Alternative and Triple A projects. How does working those formats compare to Rock?
Promotion is similar across most formats. I believe if you are a good programmer, you can program any format. If you are a good promotion person, you can promote any format. Doing National promotion is strategic; I have always equated it to the game Stratego. You have to think ahead, know where you want to be in advance; know which benchmarks you need to hit to get to the next level, an ultimately try to win the flag.
7. Now let's talk about your Rock projects at Mascot starting with Shaman's Harvest. The latest single, "In Chains," is almost rocking in the Top 20 at Active. What's the latest with this project?
This is our third single, and our highest charting single to date. There are a bunch of stations that didn't support the first two tracks and are supporting "In Chains." This is very encouraging especially for a third track. We just released an amazing video, the digital single sales are climbing, and the phones are active. The band hits the road again this week. They are incredible live and have been working their butts off. Those who know them love them; those who hear or see them for the first time become instant fans.
8. What other Rock projects does the label have coming down the pipeline in the future?
I am very excited that we are releasing the new Black Stone Cherry. They have delivered a really great album. Our first single, "In Our Dreams," ships to Rock radio in two weeks! I will be working with my good friends over at In De Goot; I have known Bill McGathy since I was an intern in radio and working with a great team of people over there is very exciting.
9. 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?
I really follow everything; I am a geek that way. I follow social media, I get alerts all day from various sites; I listen to everything, I love stats, watch how other bands develop and break, I correlate; I love the sociology of demographics ... I follow trends, I read; stay on top of pop culture, news, politics and just finished watching the Making of a Murderer.
10. Finally, since you had some experience in Rock radio, let's talk about the Rock format as a whole. What's your take on the state of Rock radio today?
That is a big question. Rock (radio) is not dead, it never will be. The format at the moment hardly shares any music that crosses over to other formats. It's a bit insular. Active and Alternative radio used to share a lot of bands. In my humble opinion, there are more bands that fit under the Rock umbrella that can appeal to a male audience. Does it have a guitar? Does it rock? Can I get away with playing it? I started my career in rock radio; we were very broad-based; we didn't miss our core but if there were bands that we felt could hit a male and somewhat female demographic we took chances.
Conversely there are bands that Alternative radio could be more embracing of more rock music. The pendulum swings both ways. A bunch of stations in what have been huge rock markets -- Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, STL to name a few -- have drifted away from rock ... Some Alternative stations are slowly embracing a few Active bands again. There were very healthy sales from a bunch of rock bands last year. Rock bands will always sell concert tickets; there will always be a lifestyle for it. Who doesn't like to rock? My personal tastes in music are so wide, and I have always gauged what I like as good and bad music. I love Metallica as much as I love Arcade Fire; I love Neil Young and Patti Smith and everything in between. I can rock out and love Bring Me the Horizon and chill out and love the new Grimes CD. I love seeing bands live ... At the end of the day, the audience will ultimately decide.