10 Questions with ... Phillip Nieves
March 6, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- College Radio - WVKR/Vassar College, Poughkeepsie
- Intern - Visual Marketing/Capitol Records
- Mailroom - Virgin Records
- Promotion Asst. - Virgin Records
- Regional Promotion Dir./Miami -Virgin Records
- Head of Promotion - Ultra Records/Music
1) Ultra: A boutique dance label that has been highly successful in crossing artists over to Pop in a major way. Accurate descripton?
I think of Ultra as a great independent music company. We do more than Dance music and we are more than a label. I appreciate the perception that we've been successful in crossing artists over to Pop. I feel like we take real "hit" records and maximize them. All the records and artists we've crossed have had a real, organic story behind them and we've taken them to the next level.
2) Brag on some of your past successes...
We'd get a record on KTU here and there and maybe get a few other stations in the years between 2003-2006 or so. In 2007, David Guetta's "Love Is Gone" broke out of Miami and N.Y. and spread nationally to be the first record I worked at Ultra that charted at Top 40. Every year since then we've had at least one record hit the Pop charts. They are all long, tough fights. Enur "Calabria" in 2008. Pitbull's first record to chart at Top 40, "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)," in 2009, which peaked at #4 at Pop and #5 Rhythm. Edward Maya "Stereo Love" and Yolanda Be Cool "We No Speak Americano" were both charting Pop simultaneously for three weeks in 2010. Edward Maya peaked at #13 Pop and #20 Rhythm. And last year Alexandra Stan "Mr. Saxobeat," which peaked at #18 Pop.
3) Talk about Calvin Harris, which is blowing up in a major way at Pop. How did he come to Ultra?
Calvin has been massive overseas since 2007 or so. I was personally a fan of his first release, "I Created Disco." Ultra wound up picking up his second project, "Ready For The Weekend," and we had a good run at Dance radio with his singles. There was one single off of that project, "Flashback," that I almost got going at Top 40 and Rhythm. Timing, traffic, etc. stalled it. That album also featured "I'm Not Alone," which was used by Chris Brown on "Yeah 3x." In 2011, we worked threesingles off of his upcoming album to Dance radio; "Awooga," "Bounce" and then "Feel So Close."
As I was working "Mr. Saxobeat" towards the end of last year, I had some programmers and DJ's tell me that "Feel So Close" was going off in a major way in the clubs in their markets. "Feel So Close," with no mainstream airplay at the time, was also selling very well, so we knew there was hit potential there. Then Calvin got the feature on Rihanna's "We Found Love." You can't beat that kind of set-up. We started setting "Feel So Close" up late last year and into 2012, and now we're off and running with a Top 20 Pop record that's about to chart Rhythm and impact Hot AC.
4) What else do you have in the pipeline?
Benny Benassi "Cinema" is a Gold-selling single with little Pop and Rhythm play, and it just won a Grammy for Best Recorded Remix for the Skrillex Remix. This record is already well set up at the core, and mainstream Radio is the next step.
Alyssa Reid feat. Jump Smokers "Alone Again" has been a double-Platinum seller in Canada and a #1 single in the U.K. now. This is a change of pace from Ultra ... a pure Pop ballad with a rap from the Jump Smokers. I always liked records with both female and male vocals on them.
I think a big part of our success has been that we try to identify our hits before we go to radio. We monitor sales, YouTube views and overall activity on a record for indicators that there is something special about a record. And we've seen that in these 2.
5) What led you to a career in "reckidz," as they say in New York?
I love music. All genres.
6) Brag on the artists that you work with. What's going on in their worlds right now?
I've touched on some of our radio successes, but deadmau5 is probably the most successful and well-known artist on the label. We did get some radio play on "Ghosts N Stuff" in 2010. That is a certified Gold single. He just performed on the Grammy telecast this year and was also the house DJ at the MTV VMAs in 2010. These are major mainstream/Pop culture looks. He's sold 300,000 copies of his latest album, 4x4=12. And he tours extensively through the U.S. and Canada playing venues big and small... everything from selling out Rodgers Center in Toronto to sixconsecutive sold out shows at Roseland in NY.
I mentioned Benny Benassi, who now has a Gold U.S. single with "Satisfaction," two Grammys, was featured on Chris Brown's "Beautiful People" and produced the next Madonna single, "Girls Gone Wild."
Kaskade also tours extensively. His latest album, "Fire & Ice," debuted Top 5 overall on iTunes. We have a new single, "Room For Happiness," with Skylar Grey that we're taking to Dance radio now. And the next single will be "Lessons In Love," featuring Neon Trees.
Steve Aoki just did what felt like a 50-city tour of the U.S. His album "Wonderland" debuted Top 10 overall on iTunes. Lil' Jon, Kid Cudi, Chiddy Bang, Wynter Gordon and Will.I.Am are featured.
These guys are playing in front of thousands of people on a nightly basis and building their fan bases in every city. They're producers who top-notch Pop artists want to work with. I think it's just a matter of time until they take that next step and have their own massive radio records.
7) What's been your most rewarding project to work?
When I last did one of these, I said it was N.E.R.D. "In Search Of..." That is still up there, but Edward Maya's "Stereo Love" is the most recent. Even I never expected that record to go as far as it did. It certainly did not sound like a traditional Pop/Rhythm record. And there were very few people who heard it as a mainstream record in the U.S. But little by little, we built that record, and it performed when it got on the air. I personally take credit for the resurgence of the accordion in Pop music. I guess all those Weird Al records I listened to as a kid paid off.
I think for any promotion person, the most rewarding projects are the records that people don't think fit radio, or maybe a particular format. You chip away little by little and break down the walls. Then seeing the passion from the listener when it gets on air is also rewarding.
8) What's been the most frustrating?
All of the rewarding ones were frustrating at one point or another. That's what makes them so rewarding in the end.
9) Looking back, which years hold the best musical memories for you and who were your favorite acts at that time?
I'm just an '80s junkie. Freestyle, hair bands, new wave, leading up to the explosion of Rap music in '87-'88.
10) Do you have a favorite hobby?
I'm still buying more sneakers than my feet can handle. Air Max, Air Jordans, Adidas. I thought I'd outgrow this habit. Apparently not. Does that count as a hobby?
Which character on a current TV series most reflects your personality?
I've had a few people tell me recently that I remind them of Cam, one of the lead characters in HBO's "How To Make It In America." But I think that show was just cancelled. So I'm not sure that's a good thing.