10 Questions with ... Amy Kaplan
August 5, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
20 years (!) of Regional Promotion based in Chicago, starting with Elektra Records, then to Imago, American, a full decade at RCA, and finally Capitol Records. Thereafter, I started my own promotion company -- Black Dog Promotion. I have been running the radio department at Mick Management for nearly three years.
1. What got you interested in the record business?
My parents were and remain in restaurants and catering in Baltimore. They were hired to coordinate catering for The Rolling Stones in 1982. I was in awe of what I saw backstage; that experience set me on a journey to find my place in the entertainment industry.
In 1990, a couple of years after graduating from college, I was working at Chicago's Z95 as a programming/promotion assistant. Brian Kelly was the PD and Ric Lippencott was OM. Brian would invite me to sit in on "record day," when the promotion locals would come to play music. That led to meeting David Perl, who hired me as his assistant at A&M Records, for a king's ransom of $11,000 per year!
2. What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
WHFS and WIYY in Baltimore
3. Who were/are your mentors?
I have had various mentors at different points in my career, but a few have remained with me throughout. First, my mom ... a working mother at a time when many women did not pursue a career ... she had three kids, then returned to school to earn a Masters Degree in Speech Therapy. I grew up believing that a woman could have a career, a family, and be successful with both. We have two amazing children -- Eli (14) and Avery (11). Life is a juggling act, requiring a sturdy support system which I have in my husband and close friends.
Another long-standing mentor has been Michael McDonald, founder of Mick Management. Michael and I met when he was tour manager for the Dave Matthews Band. After he left the road and launched ATO Records, we worked together breaking David Gray, My Morning Jacket and others at the label. Michael is incredibly generous in sharing his knowledge and relationships, allowing those who work with him to push boundaries, and explore the many facets of artist management. Though by definition my job centers on running Mick's radio department, I am involved with marketing meetings, sponsorship proposals, and any other initiative which can propel our bands' careers forward. Michael fosters a true team approach -- to be a part of Mick has been exhilarating.
More recent mentors include Lisa Sonkin and Bill Burrs. Both have opened their doors and helped me learn the little things that can really make a difference -- the nuance, and the details which can otherwise fall through the cracks. They continue to share knowledge about their formats, for which I am grateful.
4. You do promotion within a management company; tell us how that works in terms of the projects you work.
I work in tandem with the labels that represent our artists. We have clients signed to majors such as Columbia and RCA, while others partner with indies such as Downtown and Partisan. I support and complement the field staff and National Directors at each format, and am deeply involved with project set-up, promo tours and various promotions ongoing through the album cycle. Internally at Mick, I act as filter to the various artist managers. In-studio and ticket requests for any Mick artist come across my desk, and I quarterback all "presents" discussions attached to any live show. At Mick, we have dedicated tour marketing and social media personnel; the three of us work closely to insure maximum exposure for our artists.
4. Where do you get your greatest pleasure in doing record promotion?
My greatest pleasure is helping an artist connect with radio, and having their art become a part of the lives of those within a station's listening range, or pop culture at large. I still get excited when I hear an audience sing the single back to the band, knowing that local airplay was part of the engine that fueled that engagement.
5. Too many records, too few slots. What data seems to be most important to you when jockeying for an open slot on a radio station?
You can never underestimate the quality of the song. With a committed, dedicated staff behind it, a great song seems to find its way onto radio, regardless of the format. We do live in a PPM world, and research is indisputably important ammunition. Programmers look at a variety of metrics when making that final decision: iTunes sales, licensing usage, the overall profile of the record, touring highlights. Station visits are key. When a band can get into a station to play, touch the PD/MD and the station's audience, that can be a real game-changer.
6. Biggest change that you'd like to see in the business?
Our objective at Mick is developing careers for artists. This is art, not insurance sales, and an artist's career will inevitably take twists and turns. I would like to see radio less concerned with the latest "single" and more invested in the career, as a partnership with the artist. Thanks to continued downsizing, programmers carry an increasing load of responsibilities, and the time required to listen to music we have submitted, and make creative, independent programming decisions, is being zapped. I would also like to see stations be more "local." Radio is not meant to be McDonald's; a station should reflect the community being served. The best stations, in my opinion, become part of the fabric of their community.
7. What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
The unending tug-of-war programmers must feel between performing for their owners, and being able to create a compelling radio station for their listeners. The idea of PPM is difficult in the Triple A world. Most stations have high TSL, but the PPM model is not always reflective of the culture and lifestyle that Triple A radio stations try to create. Who gets these meters? I wish I knew!
8. What has been your biggest career highlight?
There have been many highlights at each label I have worked for, and at Mick Management. Last week, I flew to Colorado to see John Mayer at Red Rocks, performing songs from "Born and Raised" and his new album "Paradise Valley" (due August 20th). Red Rocks is a magical space, and watching John perform an inspired comeback show following a three-year touring hiatus was special.
9. What would surprise people most about you?
I make fantastic chocolate chip cookies which my friends and family beg for.
10. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ...
... working out.
Last Non-Industry Job:
Cocktail waitress at a combo laundromat/bar
First Record Ever Purchased:
Meatloaf - Bat Out of Hell
Seals & Croft with my parents; with friends - The Grateful Dead
Favorite Band Of All-Time:
This is like asking me which is my favorite child!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Spending time with my kids, husband and our dog Truman.