10 Questions with ... Meg MacDonald
June 10, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
A&W root beer bear, rode beans, detassled corn, librarian, lifeguard, cocktail waitress, bagel shop, beer cart girl at the U of I golf course, assistant at an entertainment insurance company, assistant at an advertising agency, receptionist at The Welk Group, publicist at Vanguard Records, Director of Radio Promotion at Vanguard (and that year was voted Gavin's Record Label Promotion Person of the Year), radio promotion at Michele Clark Promotion.
Current Status: Going on seven years as Owner of M:M Music. In 2008 voted Triple A Independent Promotion Executive of the Year. In both 2011 and 2012, M:M Music was voted Triple A Independent Promotion Company of the Year. (you were using the term "brief' loosely, right?)
1. What got you interested in the record business?
Desperation! I became interested in the record business after I was in it. I needed a job where the commute didn't take me downtown through the Crenshaw district. I was hired as the receptionist at the The Welk Group (I got the gig by singing the closing theme song to the Lawrence Welk Show in my interview ... thank you, Gran). I was 21, fresh out of college and their offices were on the beach. I didn't know they owned Vanguard Records until later and after a few months the company made moves to take Vanguard from a primarily catalog existence to a competitive label with a young active roster. I was asked to do publicity and jumped at it. I had just graduated from the University of Iowa with an English major and double minor in Journalism and Communications. I loved to talk, to write and to debate, and had always been a huge music fan so it was a perfect fit.
2. What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
KKEZ out of Fort Dodge, IA. I think it was 94.5. I can't believe I remember that, but they were the only station who carried Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown. We used to shove a tape recorder up to the kitchen radio so we could have it on cassette the whole week.
3. What may surprise people the most about M:M Music?
That my company's real name is Megaphone Promotion, Inc. M:M Music are my initials and it's DBA. What shouldn't be a surprise is that Rene Magallon is an amazing partner in commercial radio and Crystal Ann Lea at non-commercial. This doesn't fly without them or without Ben Lippman and Vania Garcia. They round out what I feel is the best team of humans in radio and if it wasn't such a monster pain in the ass, I'd change the company name to M:R:C:B:V, but then people would think we were some '80s film company. Also, that I wear Ray DiPietro's T-shirts constantly.
4. Where do you get your greatest pleasure in doing record promotion?
When it's an unknown and a station agrees to take a chance. Unkown act, unfamiliar song and it may take a year, but when we FINALLY get something going, it justifies the length of time and validates what we thought from the start.
5. What is the toughest part of your job?
Taking the call from the understandably frustrated label, manager or artist. The rush of getting the unknown a shot isn't as common as the thud of not getting it. There is simply no way to justify working certain stations early on some songs when there is one slot on the playlist and here come about five major names all in the same week.
Radio can't ever feel as if we're not aware of what their priorities are. Our goal isn't to get the comment to pass onto the client. It's to every week strive and find a way to champion the little guy alongside the bigger names; we're so thankful and honored to be working without appearing disrespectful of a PD's time constraints or worse, unaware of what makes a station competitive and successful.
6. Tell us about your weekly newsletter (with the Nielson chart information).
Several things were the impetus for that, including you. When R&R shut down in 2009, the weekly chart with your updates stopped. Half of our clients are Mediabase, half are BDS and all of a sudden there was no end-of-the-week airplay wrap-up with BDS. I didn't want the format to have just one primary source of information. It was also therapeutic for me because it felt like such a blow when the outstanding staff of R&R, who had been together and such a force for so long, all scattered to various corners of the industry. It was comforting to me to keep it going, so I did some digging to find out legally what I could do. I contacted Nielson/BDS, and then Wrights Media, and worked out a deal to have the right to use their information and export it into an official BDS weekly chart and have been putting it out every week since '09.
The commentary that I write at the top is non-music editorial that came about by accident. I had worked at a couple of papers during college and, one day, putting the chart together I did a short rant about Easter Egg hunts. I don't know why, I just didn't feel like writing about music since all the info was already below in the chart and I was pretty annoyed at turning 42 so I went with it. I got to stretch my writing legs and it reminded me of a weekly column I got to guest-write when I interned at a small town paper the summer before my senior year in college. I was hit with a lot of flattering and fun e-mails in response. People liked getting their music info with a dose of non-music humor (at least I'm aiming for humor).
7. Things are changing rapidly in our business. Were it up to you, what would you change in our "system" to give your bands a better shot?
I have never programmed a station and I wouldn't presume to know how, so I can only speak as a radio listener and a huge fan of radio. I'm not turning the dial on a new song just because it's new. I'm turning the dial if the new song sucks. There are some amazing unfamiliar songs out there and I understand it's hard for radio to not be cautious when everything screams "familiar familiar familiar." To get those lesser-known songs a better shot, I'd love to see more direct feedback from a substantial block of radio station listeners, not just a small sample of P1s or inaccurate diaries.
8. What are some of your biggest challenges as an independent promotion company?
Making each call count for both the label who has hired us and the station who is giving us some of their very limited time. It's not lip service when I say how honored and lucky we feel to be in this business. Rene and I talk about this a lot; we're getting paid to represent labels and artists, and to maintain and continue to grow the level of trust and value we have to radio. It's a balance and that music call has to mean something to the PD/MD as well, it can't just be us taking temperatures.
9. If you were to leave the record business today and you could choose any other occupation, what would it be?
Owning and operating a pet rescue on acres of open field with a staff of at least three vets. Dogs have my heart, but I'd build the biggest nest possible if an ostrich needed a home.
10. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ...
... a hug and an "I love you" from my wife, swimming laps and at least one sarcastic e-mail from Laura Duncan telling me I'm an ass.
Last non-industry job:
Detassling corn for Pioneer (the last one was really assistant at an advertising agency but the corn one is always more fun to explain)
First record ever purchased:
The 45 of America's "Sister Golden Hair"
Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine in Okoboji, IA
Favorite band of all-time:
It's a tie - The Kingston Trio and Queen
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Swimming, hiking, spending time with our nephew, small gatherings with friends rather than big parties, and vodka tonics on the deck in the sun with my wife and our dog.