10 Questions with ... Casey Silcock
February 13, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
My first label gig was with Virgin Records America, where I worked in a variety of different departments (admin, mktg, promo) from '94 through '98. I began doing promotion at Verve almost 10 years ago. And here we are...
1. What got you interested in the record business?
Immediately after college I worked for a large securities brokerage firm - cold-calling, pre-screening people for a senior broker - real "Boiler Room"-type stuff. After six months, I began to reevaluate things, to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always had this passion for discovering new music, and from an early age took great pride in being the guy in my circles that would separate the wheat from the chaff for everyone. Many phone calls and a few months later, I packed up the car and drove across the country to take a temp position at Virgin (L.A.).
2. What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
Growing up near the Quebec border, I listened to a number of big stations originating out of Montreal ... CHOM (Rock), CKMF (MOR), CJFM (Variety), CKOI (Rock-Top 40). Evenings/weekends it was all about the club mix shows on some of these outlets ... shows like "Le Cocktail Super Club" and "Le 5 Ã 8" were staples in my world. On the U.S. side ...WXXX (Top 40), WGFB (Top 40), WIZN (CR), AND of course I punched up The Point from time to time (Holla' Zeb/Mike!).
3. Who are/were your mentors?
From my time at Verve ... Nate Herr, Suzanne Berg, Laura Chiarelli, not to mention industry vets like Brad Hunt, Ruben Rodriguez and Bud Harner. Others I hold in high regard would be Mike Easterlin, Phil Quartararo, Barbara Bolan, Al Moinet, Kelly Darr. I cut my teeth with the latter group, and will forever be indebted for the experience.
4. How do you balance your efforts working so many different formats at Verve?
Juggling the diversity of the roster is a challenge. Fortunately, my musical tastes are just as diverse, so on that level it's a pretty good marriage. For starters, we have a dialog internally to decide what projects have the best shot at something real, and those projects get the most attention initially. Obviously, week to week it's an ever-changing landscape, so those priorities may shift accordingly. We're no different from any other label in those respects.
We do differ from most however in (1) the variety of artists/projects, and (2) creating a radio strategy for everything we've got. Today alone there's some sort of execution/set-up happening on: Ledisi (Urban/video), Carl Thomas (Urban/video) Gloria Estefan (Latin/AC/Club/video), Etta James (Triple A), Daryl Hall (AC/SJ/Triple A), Trombone Shorty (Triple A/Jazz), Pan Am Sdtk (Triple A/SJ/Jazz), Puppini Sisters (Triple A/Jazz/Standards), Kitty, Daisy & Lewis (Triple A), DJ Shadow (CMJ/Triple A/AltSpec), Boney James (SJ), Jamie Woon (CMJ/Triple A), Loreena McKennitt (Triple A).
So this is where the balancing act comes into play. On the surface this is a one-person department, but behind the scenes every project is staffed accordingly with some very competent indies specializing in their respective formats. These folks play an essential role in everything we do. Can't stress that enough! They contribute to the "balance" in a big way.
Of course, one glance at our roster and its obvious not all of our projects are considered true "radio records." In those cases, there's typically an understanding between all parties that the majority of exposure/sales will come from efforts elsewhere. Nonetheless, there are certain expectations on the radio front that come with each and every campaign, and we do our best to give everything a targeted shot somewhere, while being "fiscally responsible" in the process.
5. Where do you get your greatest pleasure in doing record promotion?
Hearing a record we're working get spun on the radio NEVER gets old. I still geek out when I hear our records on-air for the first time. That four-minute "feeling" drowns out all the other bullshit that tends to surround us all from time to time, and keeps me coming back for more.
6. What is the toughest part of your job?
A couple things really ... but "time" is probably at the top of that list. Finding (or creating) time to get to everyone who needs to be gotten to in a given day is a real challenge. And it's not about time management or working smarter, but rather there's just that much going on and that many people looking for answers (radio, managers, artists, co-workers, etc.). I wrestle with my conscience about this all the time, and it's something I'm trying to get better at juggling.
Combined with that, another "tough" aspect is the role itself. For the most part it's more about being a generalist rather than a specialist. And that's a by-product of the number of releases as well as the repertoire, and where we go with it. I know a great deal about navigating the waters at a number of different formats, but I'll never lay claim to being an expert at any one in particular.
Of course, I'd like to think I have some very solid relationships at radio, but admittedly they're scattered across a number of different formats. Getting to the same outlets, personally, with any real frequency is an issue. Which takes me back to the point above - my relationship with the indies we've brought on to help with our efforts becomes paramount if we're to have any success whatsoever.
7. Every promotion person has a record close to their heart that for one reason or another never broke through -- "The One That Got Away." What is your "One That Got Away," and what did you learn from that record?
There's no doubt we've had our fair share of projects that I thought were capable of performing better, but for whatever reason fell short. But I'm hard-pressed to come up with a record that's been thrown my way in recent years that I thought was a bona fide hit, and lo and behold that's not the way it played out. That said, there's a takeaway on my part from each and every failure (or success) we experience. If we fall short, obviously the goal is to not repeat whatever mistakes may have occurred along the way the last time out. It sounds cliché, but I learn something new every day in that respect.
8. Who do you see as the next breakthrough artist for the label?
Melody Gardot. She's released two full-lengths in the last several years. With some healthy support from Triple A/Noncomm/Jazz/SmoothJazz, we've scanned close to 300k units domestically between the two. Add another 1.5M shipped ex-U.S., and there's a real story here that I feel will only grow. (BTW, a big "thank you" to our friends at 'XPN and The Loft for being ahead of the world on this one -- Verve included.)
9. What has been your biggest career highlight?
Oddly enough it may be unfolding right now, yet sadly it's not applicable to this format. We have a terrific R&B artist by the name of Ledisi. She's had plenty of accolades thrown her way since signing with Verve in '07, but the current campaign is a whole 'nother level entirely. The first two singles hit #2 and #4 respectively at UAC, with a third impacting now that may very well approach the same territory. She's nominated for three Grammys this year (out of a possible four in the R&B category). The scans are there, shows are selling out, etc. And throughout her career, there's no doubt that radio has made the difference! It's a great story, and I'm happy to play a major part in it from day one.
10. If you were to leave the record business today and you could choose any other occupation, what would it be?
Sounds completely cheesy, but I really don't have any aspirations to be involved with anything outside of the music business. I'm simply not as passionate about anything else. And as challenging as things may be for the industry at large, in my opinion being a part of it beats the hell out of anything else out there. Been there! Besides, the whole world's going to shit on 12-21-12 correct? Why waste precious time trying to figure out the next move?
Last Non-Industry Job:
Marketing for a small web hosting/design company.
First Record Ever Purchased:
Either Rick Dee's "Disco Duck" or Saturday Night Fever. Wore those suckers OUT! (Attaway and I must have shopped at the same Woolworth's)
Whitney Houston, Lake Placid NY (I feel quite fortunate given the recent turn of events).
Favorite Band Of All-Time:
Tough one. Flip a coin ... Zeppelin, G 'N' R, Public Enemy, U2, Duran Duran??
What Do You Enjoy Doing In Your Spare Time Away From Work?
On the weekends I decompress, and spend every moment I can with my wife Heather and our two incredible children Samantha (4) and Max (1). We do a whole lot of nothing together ... and couldn't be happier.