10 Questions with ... Jeff Appleton
July 29, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 1972-1978 - Various radio jobs in Michigan
- 1978-1983 - PD WBUF/Buffalo NY
- Jan 1983-May 1983 -Local Atlantic/Buffalo
- 1983-Sept 1986 - Local Atlantic/Kansas City
- 1986-1989 - Regional Atlantic/Detroit
- 1989-1992 - Sr. Director Atlantic Rock Promo/NYC
- 1992-1996 - VP Rock Promo Sony 550 MUsic
- 1996-1998 -VP East Coast Promo Island Records
- 1998-2001 - VP Promo TVT Records
- 2001-2004 - VP Promo Razor & Tie Records
- Aug 2004 - ??? - Owner/operator Marathon Entertainment
1. What got you interested in the record business?
I was in a band in high school. We sucked. I managed a band in college ... they were good ... I sucked. Went to college where one of my instructors was Fred Jacobs in Radio/TV. Despite that, I still got the radio bug and but after 10 years of different formats, owners and cities, I was offered the local Atlantic promo job out of Buffalo. I knew after a few months that I had made the right decision
2. What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
There were some local AM Top 40 stations (WJIM/WILS), but anytime we could dial in WKNR out of Detroit and later CKLW from Windsor, that was the best ... and then WABX/Detroit came on and that was an amazing station
3. What was the first record you worked to radio and what has been the biggest change since you first began doing radio promotion?
It was actually three that hit around the same time and were starting their tours in Western New York ... INXS-Shabooh Shabah / U2-War/ Phil Collins-Hello I Must Be Going.
Lots of big changes but one that really hits is that it used to be you had competing stations in the markets within formats -- multiple Top 40s, multiple Rock stations. If you could get a record going on one, you could work on the others by developing requests (does anyone care anymore) and sales (which no one asks me about these days). Now because of consolidation, the competing stations are all owned by the same company. I actually miss the days when I would get a call on Friday night that the station across the street had the new record from a big artist and they wanted me to send a cease-and-desist
4. Where do you get your greatest pleasure in doing record promotion?
When you have the luck (and many times, that's where it starts) to work with a new artist and you get everyone telling you "No," then there is that moment when for any number of reasons, you begin to see the Nos turn to Maybes, and then to Yesses. When you see the progression from one record to the next, and a record sells 1,000 pieces and the next one 5,000 ... and then 10,000 and so on. I love it when I get to call the artist and let them know a station we have been working so hard on finally says yes. My dog likes that, Too, as he gets a treat.
5. What are some of your biggest challenges as an independent promoter?
It's the same for independents as it is for those that work at labels -- just getting the radio folks to listen to the record! I know the radio staffs are small -- when I was in radio I was PD, I had an MD, a promotions person, five full-time and four part-time air staff. Now you have as little as one, two or three people trying to make it work. So many times music listening takes a back seat -- especially for new and unheard-of artists. So that's the hard part ... trying to promote a record they have not heard yet.
6. What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Staffing. I listen to a lot of radio and I know when it is voicetracked. Some people can make it sound good but most of the time it sounds too cookie-cutter. But again, what is radio supposed to do when companies keep cutting staff? I give a standing ovation to Chris Mays, who got rid of the side channels and used that money for more staff. I keep waiting for some independent radio station owner to come in with great financial backing and hire a full live on-air staff and take a market by storm and have the big corporations go, "How did that happen? More staff? What a novel idea!" But then I slap myself and wake up and realize I was dreaming again
7. How do you stay in touch with the latest music trends?
Like most people, I scour the Internet and check out all the stations for adds on music I may not be familiar with. I actually heard The Lumineers about long before they broke, as my daughter went to high school with a couple members of the band and she kept telling me about them. Many times I talk to club owners to see what they are hearing about. A lot is just word-of-mouth
8. What music do you listen to when you're not working?
Depends on my mood. I listen to a lot of Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Jerry Jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris after hours while writing reports and such. On the weekend as I drive around doing errands, it's AC/DC, Ministry, Queen and then more AC/DC....
9. What is your best advice for up-and-coming promotion reps?
Get out while you can! Seriously, I don't know anymore. When I was starting we had manageable territories, we had great "bosses" -- I had Andrea Ganis, Danny Buch, David Fleishman and Sam Kaiser to learn from. I was on the road able to build relationships with people, many who are still running stations that I talk to 30 years later. We had great times, but we got the work done. Seems now, budgets and massive territories don't allow for that kind of face-to-face except for a few of the major labels and the few indie labels that still understand what they need to do to compete. Maybe I am wrong, because I don't get out as much, but in talking to some stations, it has been a very long time since they saw a promo rep outside of conventions.
10. What career path would you be following had it not been for this industry?
Lawyer or the person who plays all the dead guys in the opening of Law and Order.
Last Non-Industry Job:
Managing a clothing store in Georgetown
First Record Ever Purchased:
Elvis Presley "Hound Dog" -- one of three 45s for 50 cents! I can't remember the other two.
Conway Twitty at the Ingham County Fair
Favorite Band Of All-Time:
AC/DC and not just for the music; I did well over 20 shows with them and they always treated me well. Great guys.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Spending time with the grandkids. They are young enough that they still think I am the coolest person in the world ... ahh, brainwashing little minds!