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DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

DownTown Blog – Rock’n’Roll Romantic: Rock’n’Roll

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

To quote Pete Townsend of The Who, “Rock is dead they say”…whatever. This is a tired old chestnut that “they” bring up over and over. I’m not sure who “they” are, and I’m not sure what “they” mean by “rock”. Are we talking ROCK from the 70s, 80s or 90s onward? Or since the turn of the century? It’s a very broad term for a particular kind of music. For the sake of this blog post, I’ll be talking about the original “rock”—Rock’n’Roll.

Since I’ve already made certain statements in interviews about my intention to bring RnR into the 21st century, I’ll back it up. Rock’n’Roll is a totally other animal than “Rock”. As Tom Petty said earlier this year about his discovering RnR, “Not rock; this was Rock and Roll. The roll designates a swing — there’s a swing in the roll.” That’s what I’m talking about. There’s a difference between Rock and Rock’n’Roll, and just to be clear, it’s RnR that I’m putting out there.

All that aside, I intended the Rock’n’Roll Romantic album to be my statement about RnR in the 21st century. I took over a year to build up to the release of it and when I finally did release it on CD in October 2016, it proved to be my most successful release to date. The CD starts off with 2 of 3 songs that feature RnR Hall of Famers Max Weinberg & Garry Tallent—the rhythm section from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. In fact DownTown Mystic is the only artist in the world that can make that claim. Not even Garry Tallent and Little Steven can say that about their new solo records. Not too shabby! 🙂

A big part of the success of Rock’n’Roll Romantic was at Radio. The previous release of the DownTown Nashville EP at Americana Radio in the spring last year was easily DownTown Mystic’s biggest release at the format and helped to set the stage, so to speak, for Rock’n’Roll Romantic. But I also knew that Rock’n’Roll Romantic had a broader appeal to it than just Americana. The strategy of going to the AAA and College formats along with Americana garnered DownTown Mystic its largest radio audience, going from 16 to 36 Adds and more than 70 radio stations playing the music. For me, these results show that RnR in today’s marketplace is not dead, to say the least.

NUB

2017 started out by continuing the success of Rock’n’Roll Romantic when DownTown Mystic signed a deal with UK indie label Nub Music to release Rock’n’Roll Romantic in Europe. How apropos for 2017 to be the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the 1st Concept Album. Besides the noise of “the death of rock” is the noise about “the death of the album” and “the death of the CD”. Besides being a true RnR album, Rock’n’Roll Romantic is also a true concept album.

The truth is Rock’n’Roll is here to stay…it will never die. Wait, that sounds like a song I once heard. Nevertheless, it’s true. There’s something undeniable about an electric guitar playing along to a groove that’s being put down by a real drummer and bass player. It’s an irresistible force. Sure, it might not be what’s popular on Top 40 Radio but who cares? There are millions of people who don’t listen to Top 40 Radio.

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Meanwhile in the UK, Nub has already released the Side 2 EP to help set up the release of the full Rock’n’Roll Romantic album later in the year. What better place to release some new RnR than in the UK? Oasis has been the biggest band there since The Beatles and they’ve been around now for 20 years. So it’s safe to say that Rock’n’Roll is still alive and well there. This next chapter with Nub Music may turn out to be even more exciting than the success at US Radio for Rock’n’Roll Romantic! 🙂

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

DownTown Blog – 2016 Year In Review: Part 2: Rock’n’Roll Romantic

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

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. 🙂

Rock'n'Roll Romantic

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! 🙂

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

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.

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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. 🙂

DownTown-Nashville-Cover

DownTown Blog – 2016 Year In Review: Part 1: DownTown Nashville

DownTown-Nashville-Cover

It’s that time of the year again when we take some time to look back and assess what we’ve done before heading into a new year. As usual, it’s hard to believe we’re at this point again as another year just seemed to fly right by. You think we’d be used to it by now. 🙂

As crazy as 2016 was for the world in general, it turned out to be a very good year for DownTown Mystic. As the year started, I had this feeling that something “big” was coming. I don’t know why that was, but I could definitely feel it. In 2015 I was focusing on a strategy to release the Rock’n’Roll Romantic album. It felt like the absolute right time for it, but I decided to take a long term approach, promoting digital releases such as singles and EPs to build up to the release of the album.

Now that 2016 was here, I knew I would have to finally release the album. In January, Way To Know was released as a single in Europe. It had been released there in December but an error had caused there to be a problem with the upload to Radio. Luckily, I caught it and had the problem remedied with a new release in January. Way To Know steadily climbed the Official European Indie Music Chart, eventually making it all the way to #1 (here’s a previous post about it). In late January, the video single She Said, She Said, celebrating the 50 year anniversary of The Beatles REVOLVER album, was released exclusively on YouTube.

A pattern of doing 2 releases at the same time was starting to develop. With the release of She Said, She Said as a single, a spring release for Rock’n’Roll Romantic was scheduled. Rock’n’Roll Romantic would be the 1st full album since the self-titled DownTown Mystic album in 2013. Being that it was going on 3 years since DownTown Mystic had been at Americana Radio, there was a worry that Rock’n’Roll Romantic might not be Americana enough for the format. It was around this time that a new idea popped up.

The new idea was to create and release something that would be more conducive to the format. That release would become the DownTown Nashville EP. The original idea I had was about creating a CD to send to the music industry people (A&R, Managers, Publishers, etc.) in Nashville. I had some songs plugged down there and with the sound of modern country going more rock & pop, I wanted to introduce the music of DownTown Mystic for publishing purposes. But the idea soon morphed into creating a CD release at Americana Radio. This would create a story to interest the music people in Nashville and set up the release for Rock’n’Roll Romantic.

Steve, Robert & Paul

Steve, Robert & Paul

I had recorded a bunch of songs with Steve Holley & Paul Page (the rhythm section from Ian Hunter’s Rant Band), along with additional help from guitar ace Lance Doss, that were inspired by the many influences I had gotten over the years from the music made in Nashville. The more the idea for the release began to become clearer to me, the more I wanted to make a statement with it. I needed something iconic for the cover art, something that everyone in Nashville would immediately recognize. Then I realized that I had the perfect cover photo from my last visit to Nashville—the famed Oak Bar Men’s Room in the Hermitage Hotel! It was perfect! I had visited the Men’s Room one afternoon when it was empty and was busy taking photos when the cleaning lady showed up. She was nice enough to take one of me since my selfies weren’t too good. 🙂

Robert in Oak Bar Men's Room

Robert in Oak Bar Men’s Room

Now that I had the cover, I wanted to be able to fit the song lyrics on the inside, but that meant I would only be able to fit 5 or 6 songs. That made an album out of the question and the DownTown Nashville EP was created. I decided to release the EP digitally, but only print up 100 CDs, and make them for RADIO ONLY. This would tie in nicely with the visual on the cover (my graphics guy Larry Bentley did an amazing job!). Meanwhile, the single Way To Know kept gaining momentum, climbing the Top 20 in Europe. 🙂

In early March I mailed out less than half of the cds to less than half of the Americana radio panel. For the 1st time I would be promoting the release by myself and I decided to just concentrate on the stations that had played me before, plus some of the stations that weren’t there 3 years ago with the DownTown Mystic release. I had scheduled the DownTown Nashville EP for release on the 1st day of spring—at the Vernal Equinox.

On March 21st DownTown Nashville debuted in the Top 5 Most Added on the AMA Chart…the 1st time that had happened! In just 2 weeks it broke into the Top 100, something that took the DownTown Mystic release from 2013, 8 weeks to achieve. 2 weeks later it was at #60, blowing by the 2013 release, which took 12 weeks to reach #65!! DownTown Nashville would reach #53 and stay on the AMA Chart for 7 months, becoming DownTown Mystic’s best release at the format yet. DownTown Nashville would also be #1 on the AirPlay Direct Top 50 Global Radio Rock Albums Chart in March and April, beating the mark set by the DownTown Mystic on E Street EP the year before as DownTown Mystic’s most downloaded release on APD!

Meanwhile, the single Way To Know was about to start a 3 week run at #1 in Europe. It was only April and the year was rockin’ in a big way and there was still the matter of releasing Rock’n’Roll Romantic. 🙂

To be continued…Part 2: Rock’n’Roll Romantic