With the 62nd GRAMMY Awards just wrapping up on January 26, I thought I would make a create a moment. I love music and I figured I would march into Warner Music Canada to have a quick conversation. I walked down the hallway and saw posters on the wall of my idols growing up (ie. The Barenaked Ladies & Corey Hart).
I ran into a friend of mine, Erik Hodgson. “Can I talk to you for a second.” I pleaded. “Come on Erik. I am telling you. You got to listen to my songs. It’s gold I tell you, it’s gold. With the right publicity…” I paused. “This is it. This is the song of the century.” Erik looked at me, smirked and noticed the cassette tape in my hand. He shook his head. I thought to myself, hmmm…perhaps I should have been more prepared. I probably shouldn’t have showed up with my mixtape from 1993. In the meantime, while I figure out a better approach, let’s have a cinqque5tion interview with Erik Hodgson.
- Who are some of the artists that you have worked with in the past?
Working in publicity at Island Def Jam (Universal Music Canada) in Toronto in the 2000s there were many memorable artists; PJ Harvey, Elvis Costello, Insane Clown Posse, 98 Degrees, Jann Arden, Lionel Richie, Nelly, and Matthew Good Band. Doing Freelance PR, the bulk of the work at that time was with Just For Laughs and with PR companies working films at TIFF. Many personalities that are hard to forget like Patrice O’Neill, Jason Alexander, Frank Spadone, Angelo Tsarouchas, Mike MacDonald, Harland Williams, Dr Ken, James Mullinger and John Cleese. In film Paul Giamatti, John Malkovich, Ed Harris, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel Weiss, Rian Johnson, Jay Roach and Todd Phillips. At Warner Music Canada we have an amazing roster of artists who are all great human beings that I’m proud to work with like Billy Talent, Brett Kissel, Metallica, Blue Rodeo, Meghan Patrick, Aaron Goodvin, Michael Bublé, Dua Lipa, Dan and Shay, Scott Helman, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Blake Shelton.
- What is the process of getting a song on the radio?
The song is serviced, and it goes into a radio station’s weekly music meeting where programmers make playlist decisions. We play the music as far in advance as possible for programmers. Pertinent information is shared such as International chart numbers, streaming numbers, Shazam chart highlights, tour dates, interesting press and sometimes artist visits to the stations. Showing we are building an artist career makes a difference. Part of my daily routine is to listen to songs at each radio format. Over time with an ever-changing group of songs you hear trends and get an idea of where a new song might fit. Great songs find their way.
- Can you describe one of your advertising campaigns at Warner Music Canada?
Julia Hummel Director of Marketing at WMC and her team set up an amazing multi-platform, ‘love’ marketing campaign for Michael Bublé’s ‘love’ album. Key drivers included a comprehensive social campaign. Bublé’s core fans were the primary target, followed by fans of ‘like’ artists and a range of lifestyle and culture groups. Additional marketing included TV, print, and out of home media. Multiple fan engagement campaigns were also launched to generate additional online buzz and fan interest. In February of 2019, Valentine’s Day marked an important milestone for ‘love’, presenting an opportunity to extend the lifecycle of the album. WMC devised an innovative way to promote ‘love’ by commissioning a visual artist to create a heart-shaped art installation as a part of the Toronto Light Festival that ran from January to March in Toronto’s Distillery District. Michael Bublé commented, “I absolutely love the way Craig Small’s sculpture captures how love is multi-faceted. It’s a theme I explored while recording my album, Love – the idea that love can be blissful, romantic, complicated, and overall just beautiful.” The launch received coverage from influencers and media outlets. The initiative also included a call out for fans to post a photo in front of the installation with a friend or loved one on socials, tagging it with #MBLoveTO for a chance to win the ultimate Michael Bublé experience.
- How do you facilitate artist promotions and publicity in Ontario for Warner Artists?
At WMC our Publicity department schedules all the artist media except for radio. The promotion reps book artist interviews with radio and run the press day with the artists when they are here. It’s very much a collaborative process putting the schedules together and running the press day.
- Just for fun. We want to live through your eyes for one moment.
In mid 2000s I worked with Lionel Richie several times. There is a reason he has had the success he’s had beyond his talent as a songwriter and performer. Lionel is master at making people feel comfortable and turning every situation positive. Those promo trips were jam packed and he was ‘on’ every minute of them. It was incredible to hear stories over lunch and dinner between Lionel, his manager at the time Skip Miller (former President of Motown) and his security Bobby Adams (former LAPD, former Jackson 5 Security, Doo Wop hall of fame inductee). Lionel engaged me. It was a confidence booster that made me feel part of his team.
We were in a van on the way to an interview one day and Lionel asks to stop at a department store as he hadn’t packed enough underwear for the trip. I remember the four of us mulling over the boxer or brief question on the way to Holt Renfrew on Bloor St. In the store Lionel is smiling and saying hi to everyone in the now suddenly busy men’s department. He is looking through the packages and the clothes rack beside us moves a bit and there is a lady in the middle of it hiding and peering out through some shirts. Without looking up Lionel says “I can seeeee yoooou. Come out of there and help me shop”. This lady comes out shaking and teary. Lionel says “Breathe. Okay then, boxers or briefs?” she laughed. He asked about her and her life. He made her feel comfortable and that’s just the kind of guy he is.
So…I have to ask? Did the lady pick boxers or briefs for Lionel?
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