10 Questions with ... Risa Matsuki
February 15, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started as an intern at Columbia in NY in high school in the '80s and worked my way up into the business with every possible job: fan club manager, production assistant on tour, radio station programming assistant, radio station voice imaging fill-in, radio traffic sales dept. assistant, eventually, landing a promo assistant gig at Columbia. From there I became a local for Artemis, moving over to TVT for many years, then back to Columbia as the Alternative person. Next was Republic as the Triple A person, then MySpace head of radio, then Beggars, where I am now VP/Promo. With wine stuff in between!
1. What got you interested in the record business?
I loved music growing up. My parents both played instruments as did I, and once I discovered radio, I thought to myself I could be the person that picks the songs on the radio, not actually knowing there was a job like that!
2. What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
WNEW/New York! After I moved back from Japan in high school, that was ALL I listened to, although I know I flipped to Z100 a lot because I won all my prize pig stuff from them!
3. Where do you get your greatest pleasure in doing record promotion?
No matter what, when I hear the songs of my artists on the radio, it makes me squeal with excitement and I still get so emotional and proud.
4. The label has seen great success at Triple A with Houndmouth, Beirut and El Vy and now Kurt Vile. Do you think the label has adjusted the type of artist it signs, or has Triple A evolved to match your artists?
I do think the format has evolved quite a bit, but also my bands are also more willing to bend some of their rules a little as well, but finally my bands that were deemed "TOO COOL FOR THE ROOM" now finally fit the bill at radio. And I couldn't be happier! People need to experience and find new music, and I love thinking we are always gonna have that as a label.
5. Tell us about new acts you are most excited about.
If you have not heard Lapsley yet ... OMG, breathtaking, stunning, is all I can say. XX meets ADELE. One act not on my labels I really, really love is St Lucia. I know they have been around for a while, but they are so good and so much fun!
6. What may surprise people the most about the Beggars Group?
Our catalog and how long we have been a record label group, and the vast artists we actually have that you know.
7. What are some of your biggest challenges as an independent record label?
I used to say it was the lack of respect or lack of knowledge of the label group as a whole, but I can't say that anymore, because I know you know who we are. The next hurdle is to have a little more variety in the types of things we sign, which is happening, but our motto is to make sure the artist never feels compromised in their artistic vision.
Sure, we want radio to somehow fit that bill because we don't PUSH the artists to go "commercial." It is a bit of a challenge for someone like me, because ultimately I want the world for my bands and that means having mainstream audiences appreciate you the way your core appreciates you.
I think you can have both worlds, meet in a good place and still have everything you want without "selling out" or feeling like you've watered yourself down. Success breeds success -- the more success we have at radio with our bands, I start to see more of my bands want that and that then brings a whole new level of problems, which are the expectations of the managers that think their band and song have that potential. It's hard to manage so many levels of nuance!
8. What has been your biggest career highlight?
Giving Rough Trade their first ever #1 song with Houndmouth and giving Beggars Group four Top 5 songs at this format. Basically giving Beggars Group a chance to say, we are a strong Triple A label.
9. What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
A.D.D is worse than ever, and I always feel bad for radio that has to compete with the person, passively listening, while playing a video game, while downloading an app or wanting to switch back and forth from terrestrial, to online to Beats 1 to Spotify, to etc.
10 Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ...
...some kind of candy. YOU THOUGHT I WAS GONNA SAY WINE, DIDN'T YOU?
Last non-industry job:
Wine buyer for Vons on Santa Monica Blvd.
First record ever purchased:
Roberta Flack/Killing Me Softly
Rick Springfield/Til Tuesday
Favorite band of all-time:
Not fair, but if I have to I'd say Queensryche or Def Leppard.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work? What spare time?
Okay, traveling and cooking and eating and drinking.