I’ve had people email me and ask about the Supersuckers and challenges that we faced at radio. So here’s an exclusive Rockonomics Q & A with Michael Newman of Grill Marketing. Newman was in the trenches with us while we did everything we could do get some radio play…
Most people don’t hear the Supersuckers on the radio but there were some moments for sure when it happened; WKZQ in Myrtle Beach, WRFF in Philadelphia, KIWR in Omaha to name a few… Some bright moments but not always easy. Newman was one of those guys that we hired to help service the Supersuckers at radio. Specifically he worked “Get it Together”. I think it’s fair to say that Newman was always impressed with our contests, willingness to drop by a radio station, call a station, mail a CD, shirt, or an LP to a station. If it meant that Eddie had to send a postcard or if Dan “Thunder” Bolton had to bake an apple pie chances are we would do it. Because we had to do everything we could do to reach one more ear. I can remember one time in Chicago when the band got back from the venue at 3:00 AM and then left at 5:00 AM to make the ManCow Show. It was this Supersuckers dedication and perseverance that I loved to witness. There was that magic that happened that words can’t really explain that I got to witness and I love sharing it…
Q: Am I right in assuming that the Supersuckers contests from the Les Paul Guitar giveaway’s to mailing shirts was impressive or is that really what a band has to do now to get some overall attention?
Contests always help. A Les Paul always helps. By the way, I never got mine… 🙂 People love free stuff. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s a bit trickier these days with what you hand over to a radio station thanks to a few boobs in this business but I know they certainly appreciate it. Even if it’s a couple of CDs for giveaways, it’s just a nice way of showing that you appreciate you showcasing the band on their radio show.
Q: Most independent bands don’t have deep pockets. Is there a cost effective radio campaign that you can suggest to those on limited budgets for example a track on the FMQB CD?
Well, I consider my campaign pretty cost effective. Radio promotion is an expensive business. A full on modern rock campaign can start at $10,000 easily. I make my campaign cost effective for a couple reasons. One, as you mentioned, independent bands are working with limited budgets. I have no problem working within a band’s budget. I want them to have a shot at radio. they shouldn’t be excluded because they don’t have an RCA Records paying for their campaign. Two, I look at my campaign as a way of “dipping your toe in the water” to see if there’s anything there. If there’s genuine interest, then you may think about looking to do a full on campaign and hiring a larger company. If there’s no interest, then you haven’t bet the farm as they say and you can use your money to buy new instruments (kidding.) While tossing a track on a sampler certainly will help the overall visibility of a radio campaign, it’s nothing unless you have someone on the phones / email backing up that visibility.
Q: What exactly is your specialty and how much can Specialty radio programs impact an artist’s career?
My specialty is, well, specialty! I’m the guy that gets to all the folks doing new music shows on terrestrial, internet and satellite radio. It’s these shows where people go to discover new music on the station they listen to without having the new Linkin Park crammed down their throats 50 times a week.
The second part of your question is a bit difficult to answer because there’s sure to be a difference of opinion with how people define “impact.” It would be egotistical (and ignorant) of me to say that had it not been for my specialty campaign for, let say, The Killers, they’d be still be playing lounge shows in Las Vegas. It just doesn’t work that way. I look at what I do as a grass-roots approach to marketing. The people I promote records to are the tastemakers. They’re lovers of music. They do their shows for the love of music. Most get paid peanuts for doing their show; some not at all. In my opinion these are the people that have the real impact on an artist’s career. If they like something not only will they be playing it on their show but I can guarantee you they’re talking about the artist to anyone who will listen. Especially in this day and age with the internet, word of mouth rules all.
I think like anything, careers are developed over time. It’s rare that I work with a new artist on their first album that goes on to be huge instantly. It’s usually after releasing a couple of EPs / albums that radio starts to pay attention. Does that mean they’ll like album two better than album one? No, but at least there’ll be familiarity and a better chance they’ll pick up the next release. I remember working at Virgin Records in the mid 90’s. We had an amazing roster (Gomez, Placebo, Daft Punk, The Verve) but none of these artists were instant successes. It was over a number of albums that we were able to build their profile at radio.
With my company, The Grill, I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of artists on their first albums that went on to bigger and better things. From Gnarls Barkley to Paramore, and more recently Neon Trees and The Temper Trap. Having said that, my specialty campaign alone doesn’t “make” the developing artist. I’m just one cog in the machine. A well put together team with radio, publicity, online marketing, etc can make a big difference. Oh yea… Great songs can help too.
Q: I remember I specifically wanted you to help work the Supersuckers to radio because you were a fan. When did you become a fan and is there a specific story you’d like to share?
I am absolutely a fan. I think it was my first year of college in 1992. I was at UMASS Amherst and Sub Pop was in full stride. They had opened an east coast office in Boston that Joyce Linehan ran (Joyce now co-owns Ashmont Records with Joe Pernice) and soon they were signing bands like crazy. Sebadoh, Scud Mountain Boys from Western Mass and from the Boston area Green Magnet School, Six Finger Satellite, Combustible Edison. It was extremely exciting to be involved in the scene during that time so I started picking up almost anything the Sub Pop put out. I remember kicking around Northampton, MA one summer and I picked up a SPIN magazine just because it had a Sub Pop sampler in there. Sandwiched in there with Love Battery and Rein Sanction was the ‘Suckers “Mighty Joe Young” off The Smoke Of Hell. Even though they were something of an anomaly to the “Sub Pop” sound, I loved it. Anyway, that’s really all I needed to hear. I played that track for four weeks for anyone that came over to my place. A few months later I saw them with the Reverend Horton Heat and I’ve been a fan ever since…
BTW please send my best to Rontrose. I really like that dude…
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