I did not expect DownTown Nashville to get the reaction at Americana Radio that it got. Within the first 4 weeks of its release it had surpassed everything I could have hoped for. Compared to the DownTown Mystic release 3 years earlier, it was a smash! This was a total surprise! If I had serviced the entire panel and worked it harder, DownTown Nashville might have made the AMA Top 40. That probably would have been more than I had bargained for. 🙂
Ok…so I’ve been waiting for what I feel will be the right moment to release Rock’n’Roll Romantic. I could have done it in Sept./Oct. 2015, but it didn’t feel right. And the more I waited, it allowed me to continue to release & promote, getting the songs heard and keeping my name out there. In my mind, the album is a bit intense to listen to in 1 sitting. It’s a concept album that needs to be heard in its entirety and that’s not an easy sell today, especially for Radio. So exposing the songs little by little was a good strategy. I always heard the album as Side 1 & Side 2, so I wanted to have all the singles on Side 1. Every song had been played at Radio somewhere in the world and every song kicked in its own way. So to hear these singles all in a row would be impressive. 🙂
In the summer (late July) I finally released Rock’nRoll Romantic as a digital album, with the announcement that the CD would follow in the fall. I figured this would give me a chance to finally get the CD together. The digital release was greeted with rave reviews from the press and occupied the #2 slot for July and August on the AirPlay Direct Global Rock Albums Chart. With the CD now slated for release in the fall, I knew that it was now or never. In September I called Rene Magallon at M:M Music, the #1 indie AAA Radio Promoter. It had been 8 years since I last worked with them at AAA/Non-Com Radio and I was somewhat apprehensive.
Hiring M:M Music to promote to Radio is not cheap, especially for indies like myself. But they’re the best at what they do and they don’t need to take on everybody that calls them. I would be moving up to another level working with them. So I call Rene to tell her about the new CD and to let her know that I think the album can appeal to a broader audience. Especially because of some of the names involved like The E Street Band rhythm section—“Mighty” Max Weinberg & Garry Tallent.
Rene wants to hear the album, so I send her a link and she listens. She tells me she’s very impressed with my writing from what she remembers and really likes what she heard. This is cool news! Rene hears EVERYTHING that’s out there, so coming from her, this is a BIG complement. She doesn’t think it’s an Americana release and commercial AAA is not in the picture yet. Rene thinks it has a chance at Non-Com and College Radio. The idea of college kids listening to the CD really interested me because they would be a good way for me to judge the music as being contemporary or not.
Rene asked me if the CD was ready to go and I told her no, but that I would have it ready for release in October. She was cool with that. She also wanted to know my thoughts about what she had said. I told her that I always have a problem about promoting to Radio, if it was worth it. In the last couple of years I’ve been played on 10-15,000 stations around the world. When you’re talking in numbers like that, getting played by a few more radio stations doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Especially with the cost of promo that’s involved here in the US.
But this is Rock’nRoll Romantic and I’m making a statement with it. I told Rene that at the very least I wanted to establish myself as an artist at Radio with this album, so I need to get it heard beyond at what I had been doing. She agreed and thought that the best way to go was getting it out to Non-Com and College which would require between 500-600 cds. That would definitely get it heard. I told Rene I was in.
As an Artist I still believe in Radio because it allows me to judge certain things with the music. Also, I want to compete in the marketplace with the other labels, Major or Indie. Hiring M:M Music would take me to the next level and up my profile out there. You might think you’re great, but until you go out to where the real competition is, you’re just blowing smoke, right? 🙂
Rene gave me a deadline for when the cds needed to be mailed out and set an impact date for October 10 at Radio. Now all I needed to do was create the cd artwork and get the cds made. The 1st thing I did was change the opening track, adding Way To Know, which was not on the digital release. In July I had come up with a track listing for a possible release in Europe that included Way To Know, which had been #1 there earlier in the year. I thought the track listing was better than the digital release and the addition of Way To Know made the concept of the album stronger. Plus as a label, I wanted the CD to be different from the digital album.
I knew the main part of the artwork would be the inside of the cd, which were all credits. Working with digital releases, the only thing that matters is the cover art. It’s only with a physical release that all the credits can be listed. Everyone involved with the project likes to see their names on it, which doesn’t happen with digital releases. In this case, Rock’nRoll Romantic had 15 musicians who lent their talents to its creation and a half dozen co-writers, not to mention the recording engineers and studios that were involved.
I thought that it was all of the credits I had been putting off but I finally realized that it was all about the artwork…in particular—the cover art. I had been waiting for the right time to put out this cd. Now I had the promotion team in place and all the credits were done. But the front cover artwork that was used for the digital album was not doing it for me on the cd. My graphics designer, Larry Bentley, had come up with a great back cover, which I loved. At the 11th hour I just asked him “to try and fuck with it” (the front cover). Larry came back with 3 or 4 ideas, one of which really caught my eye. I asked him to make a few tweaks to it and voila—we had the new cover art! 🙂
With the new cover in place, everything went as planned. The CD was mailed out and promotion began in October. What I hadn’t planned on was the high number of 4th Quarter releases that were out there, making for some stiff competition. The initial going at Radio was slow, especially Americana. The success of DownTown Nashville had spoiled me. Part of the problem at the format is that Non-Com/AAA stations that report to the AMA Chart outnumber the more Americana leaning stations. This meant that Crystal Ann Lea, who works Non-Com for M:M Music, would be promoting to those Non-Com stations on the AMA Chart as AAA.
Even though I knew going in that many wouldn’t think it was an Americana release, I still wanted to take it to the stations that had supported me. I knew they would listen and they did. In Europe I’m known as American rocker Robert Allen, which is great. They don’t understand the term Americana the way it’s used here as a US music genre. If I tell them I’m Americana, the Europeans think I mean Rock’n’Roll. So it’s kind of weird that not everyone at the Americana Radio format here thinks RnR is Americana, or it just seems that way at times.
After 4 or 5 weeks I had 8 stations playing Rock’nRoll Romantic and finally broke into the Top 100 on the AMA Chart, about half the time it took 3 years earlier. Crystal Ann also had 8 stations that added the CD but by December, she had an additional 30 stations that had it in light rotation. Add to that the 17 college stations that Ian Murray at M:M had gotten and the overall picture was an impressive one—over 30 total Adds and over 60 stations playing Rock’nRoll Romantic! Rene had been correct. M:M Music had gotten the music heard and the result was a much broader audience for DownTown Mystic. What makes this even better for me is that this was accomplished in a very tough competitive 4th Quarter. 🙂
As I said at the start of Part 1, 2016 turned out to be a very good year for DownTown Mystic and I want to give thanks to all of the people at Non-Com, College and Americana Radio for their support, as well as everyone at M:M Music for making Rock’nRoll Romantic a success. Now I’m going to celebrate the holidays and look forward to what 2017 has in store. 🙂