Industry Interview: Former Warner Bros Veteran Ted Joseph
Almost as quickly as a listener can download their favorite song, traditional brick and mortar record labels are giving way to "virtual record companies"--outfits which lack a single physical address, but boast a widespread gathering of strategically handpicked powerhouse executives to head up traditional promotions divisions (radio, print and TV publicity) and those created by the new media age (internet marketing and digital media).
And just who is putting together these teams?
Veteran industry execs like Ted Joseph, who have refashioned themselves as consultants, applying their many years of knowledge and experience to the modern age where the opportunities to sell music are limitless. Joseph spent twenty-one of his first 25 years in the business at Warner Bros., launching his career as a merchandiser in Detroit before holding positions in the company's marketing, sales, radio promotion and distribution divisions over the years in New York and Los Angeles.
As a consultant for a growing number of labels in the realms of urban, pop, smooth jazz and country music, he's working with less famous artists in addition to those of the caliber he dealt with in his corporate days‹a roster that included Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, Prince, Rod Stewart, George Benson, David Sanborn and Al Jarreau. But helming such exciting and growing indie operations as upstart Alive Records, Joseph is setting the trend and showing his counterparts how things are being done, working with what he calls "the new model."
"I fashioned my career at Warner Bros. to incorporate numerous departments because I felt knowing how every aspect worked would make me more effective at each task," he says. "Since I've been consulting independent labels in the areas of my expertise, I've notice many of my former contemporaries have disappeared because they were not willing to keep up with the new model of today's record business. Rather than run away, I've embraced the reality that brick and mortar stores are diminishing drastically and music is being delivered in all these new, instantly gratifying ways.
"That's not to say that standard retailers are going to be demolished soon, but are shifting to the big box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc.," Joseph adds. "Radio still plays a big part in establishing artists, but it's not the only way. To be successful, a young label must implement alternative marketing techniques via the net and other important strategic technology."
Joseph is especially proud of his involvement with Alive, which launched this last fall with the release of Labor Pains, the debut from charismatic, traditional-minded singer Michael Lee Austin; the label dropped Deeper, the debut by cutting edge, country crossover vocalist Brandi Valentine, in early 2006.
Traditional radio marketing, brick and mortar distribution and track availability via digital download sites like itunes, MSN, Napster and Yahoo! Music are just the start of the push to establish Alive Records as a viable new presence on the scene. Tapping into the unlimited marketing potential that the internet offers, Alive Records' widescale online database driven strategies will radically change the way products reach targeted consumers for years to come.
"Our mission statement is to expose extremely good music to the traditional and nontraditional consumer of music products," says Joseph. "The bottom line with any record company is high quality music. All of these ingenious marketing techniques are in the service of that bottom line. Major labels have been investigating these ideas for years, but they move very slowly to implement them. We believe that a small label like us has a tremendous advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace."
To achieve these aims, Joseph has assembled a strong team of radio promotion and publicity specialists (Luck Media), established a presence for Austin and Valentine on myspace.com, and implemented a unique "branding program" for these artists which ranges from free promo discs and posters to web advertising, banners and an ongoing series of eblasts to consumers who have indicated an interest in these artists.
"The function I serve with Alive, as well as the other companies I work with, is as a quarterback," he says. "I utilize the experience I had running all those departments at Warners, focusing on the company's basic goal of penetrating the marketplace with the artists so that the most amount of people can hear their music. While we're getting close to a global distribution deal with Alive, their music has long been available on Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes, MP3, Launch, Yahoo! Music, AOL Music and a host of other online sites."
Joseph likens the 10-member team he's assembled for Alive Records to a finely tuned watch, where all areas (A&R, Business Affairs, Internet Strategy) work independently but report to one another.
"I incorporate a bit of the traditional music business model with the new model," Joseph continues. "While we're always making deals to make sure the internet marketing is up and running on a daily basis, Alive's radio team is penetrating stations and getting good accurate feedback on airplay. Our efforts ensured that Michael Lee Austin debuted at #30 (and is currently at #27) and Brandi Valentine debuted at #25 on the New Music Weekly Top Indie Chart. Also included in our task sheet are little things like making sure we always have ample stock on hand for shipping orders."
While his passion for music has kept Joseph's career thriving long after he left corporate America, he's aware that over time, he will have to work diligently to stay one step ahead of the curve as more consultant formed indie companies emerge and conglomerate run record labels strive to catch up with the modern age.
"Today, most major music companies still market and promote music like they did 30 years ago, but a few are making inroads that show they're catching on to the new model and type of consumer," he says. "Warner Music Group has a web based label and myspace has a label deal through Universal. The great thing about independent music making and marketing is not having to sell 20 million units to show a profit. The key is spending more on clever marketing strategies than on recording. What's most enjoyable for me now is gaining the trust of the many labels and projects I work with and being able to make quick decisions and implement my ideas without dealing with all the crazy bureaucracy. In the indie music world, the artists aren't the only ones enjoying creative freedom."
Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © MusicDish LLC 2006 - Republished with Permission