When people in the music industry talk about the art of artist promotion, one name consistently comes up, again, and again: Frank Roszak. He is the gold standard in the industry. Everybody knows Frank, and Frank knows everybody.
Beginning in the 1970’s, Roszak spent several years involved with the technical side of the music industry working as a mixer, engineer, and award winning producer. Later on, he became involved with radio, booking artists, marketing and promotion. As director of Radio, Promotion, and Press for Delta and Eclecto Groove Records, he secured various sources of exposure for artists such as Elvin Bishop, Rod Piazza, Mike Zito, and Ana Popovic, and many others.
In January 2011, Roszak started his own agency, Frank Roszak Promotions. Currently, Frank works with J.P. Soars, Marion James, Tweed Funk, Victor Wainwright, The Mannish Boys, Brad Hatfield, and many more top-tier artists. We were very fortunate to catch up with Frank recently, and discuss various aspects of marketing and promotion as it exists in the social media saturated music industry of today.
ABS: So, for the benefit of those who don’t know, how did you get started doing what you do?
How I got started in Marketing and Promotions was, I was the Director of Marketing and Promotions, Radio and Press for Delta and Eclecto Groove Records. We had had experience in the music business, like running a label. so, we just kinda flew seat-of-our-pants, for the most part. What I basically did, really, to announce who we were, and/or to make an impression, on the Blues world, was I sat there every single day, and all I did was make phone calls introducing myself, and the label, to anybody and everybody that was either blues related, and/or would listen to me. I put together a lot of the distribution for the label that they had at the time.
I talk to people. I take interest in people… find out what they’re doing, what they’re about, What they do; just, everything. That’s always been my way. To me, I really can’t stress enough about, taking interest. It’s great if you promote yourself. I really do so little, if anything, at all to promote myself.
ABS: Young people today think social media is everything and they don’t work on relationships (the way most of the older generations do) … This younger generation doesn’t quite know how to talk to people.
I think that with young people today, they just don’t really know about relationships. It could be due to social media. I think you need to make actual voice contact with somebody. I know that sometimes the phone feels so heavy that to pick it up, is like picking up a weight, but … ” Roszak laughs and continues “That’s what’s missing today, I think (in), like with social media, and emails, and all that other stuff. It’s just very distant, very removed, and it’s very cold.
And I don’t care how many times it may take you to make a phone call and reach somebody. Trust me, eventually you will, and you’ll have that conversation and you’ll be so happy that you did.
ABS: The little ways we can help others: w/o expecting or asking for anything in return … connecting people to other people … again; taking interest in other people. Who they are, what they may need, how can I help them?
You take an interest. You care about what it is that people do, and you connect people. If one person can help another person, basically, that’s what it’s all about. I introduce people to people all the time. I’ve been in this business for 35 years, and I don’t consider myself to be any kind of master at it or whatever, but I’ve definitely met a lot of people over the course of time, in a lot of different areas, and I ‘m forever introducing to other people. The one thing … people will call me an idiot or stupid, or whatever. However; whenever I make these introductions, if it works and it’s brilliant, I never ask for anything in return. There are some people that wouldn’t lift a finger unless they knew that they were gonna something out of it.
ABS: Sometimes, you just gotta be nice because it’s just the right thing to do. …
Yeah, I never do to really expect anything in return. It’s not the way I was raised, and especially in my promotion. Go above and beyond. I take a personal interest. Of course, it’s always a case by case situation and you have some people that appreciate me more than other people or whatever, but, if there’s something I can do to enhance somebody’s career, if I can somehow contribute something, that would help them get to that next level, or attain their dream, then I’m so happy to just do it. You gotta do the do, you know? That’s all.
ABS: The universe is good like that. If you give from the heart and you don’t worry about yourself, it comes back to you. …
It will come back; there’s no doubt about it. It may not come back in a way that you expect, but trust me, its gonna come back at you. One way, or the other.
ABS: You are seen as a master in the art of promotion. What are some of the differences in promoting a new artist versus and established artist/band? With a new artist you are trying to build a following and a fan base. With an established artist or band, you are trying to grow a fan base that is already there, and maintain it at that higher level. How do you approach each of these?
Well, here’s been my experience. Number one, any time I work with a new artist, and it’s their very first CD, the one thing that I do tell them straight away is that, it’s like shooting for the moon almost. Being happy, you know what I mean? Landing on a star. Whatever way that expression goes. You’re developing them. You’re trying to brand them. I get great results, there’s no question about it. But, from my experience, what I’ve seen is from their first record to their second record, if they do a second record. Not only have they maintained all the people at radio and press that got on board, and gave them some exposure in some kind of way, but then, on the second record, generally speaking, it grows. It’s like those that were just kind of waiting to see where they were gonna go, if they were gonna follow through, if they’re as good as they were the first time. For any number of reasons, it really grows. So those that are sleepers, in a way, and wait for a followup … You’ve got everybody that you’ve already established, but now you have all these new people as well too, that were just like waiting to see what you were going to do.
I always let them know, ‘Look. Just as an experience, this is the way it goes. Expect good results, however, this is still your very first record, so it’s gonna take a little doing, it’s gonna take some patience, and just understand that you’re planting the seed.’
ABS: What about following up on a debut album?
You know, it takes a lot of determination from the artist. I mean, you’ve got to be consistent. You have to persevere. You can’t get, you know, you can’t get down. You have to have the understanding that from record one on, it’s a growing process; you’re gonna have growing pains. You’re not gonna conquer the world in (a) four to six months promotion. You just have to be ‘out there,’ and you gotta be hustling. You have to be doing those gigs, you know? (And) I know it’s a bitch man, sitting there trying to get through to these clubs, and hey, especially, it’s not like that way it was. You’ve only got so many, and all the same people, doing all the same festivals, doing all the same venues.
You gotta pound that phone man. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, whatever, at the end of the day, to me, is not gonna close the deal. You may get people to be your friend, and they may see what it is that you’re doing, which is great, that’s part of it. Still for me, the only way you’re gonna get through, is the old fashioned way. The way you and I do it, and that’s by talking on the phone.
ABS: People appreciate that “old school,” personal touch more.
I believe that. Absolutely. They sure do! I get more people that are astonished that I call. I’ll sit down, take out my sheet and (see) who it is that I want to talk to. It’s random. Or like, ‘I haven’t spoken to so and so in while.’ Pick up the phone and give them a shout, say hello. Again; I go back to my philosophy, which is ‘You’ll get more if ask for less, or nothing.’ Again, just take an interest and say ‘Hey, what’s going on. Just checkin’ in. Just wanted to say hello.’
That’s it. If something comes of it, great. If you wind up talking about music, fine. My artist(s) tell me ‘Oh, you didn’t talk specifically about me?’ I say, ‘Look. I don’t start my call specifically about an artist. So, I start my call by calling up and just saying hello. If in that conversation we get to talk about you, then great, if it goes in that direction. That’s not my priority, you know?’ Most get it. Some haven’t gotten it. What can I tell you?
The only kind of … [pauses and restarts his thought again] It’s a simple process really, when I promote something. I mean it’s a lot of work, but it’s a simple process really. It still amazes me though, how when I work with certain artists, they take it upon themselves to decide they’re not gonna do it the way I suggest we do it, if they want to have a successful campaign.
Something goes on, inside their head, saying ‘Well, let me see. Why should I put Frank’s return address label on the outside of the envelope? That doesn’t make any sense to me. You know what? I’m not gonna do that.’ Then they don’t tell you, and I find out anyway. They’re like ‘Why were you making me put your return address (on the) envelope if I’m gonna be sending it out? I say, ‘Well let me think. They get about 30 CDs a week, let’s say, a month – whatever it may be. The first thing they do is they look at the outside of the envelope. If they don’t recognize a name, what do you think is gonna happen with it?’
I say, ‘Well, let me tell you what happens when they see my name on the outside of the envelope. They take it straight away, and I’ve had people tell me that as soon as they get my mail-ins, with my name on it, they know exactly what to expect. So, they take it and they deal with it, straight away. It goes on the top of the pile, whatever it does, separated from the rest.’ Yet, will they do that? No! They think they know better sometimes. Drives me nuts!
ABS: Youth is great because when you are young, you know everything, right?
Working with the artists and doing promotion, you see if anybody were to decide … or even, let’s say, they tell me ‘Ok. Fine. I sent out all the CDs.’ Or they say ‘yes, we did it exactly the way you told us.’ What they don’t realize is, I find out everything! The reason I find out everything is because people tell me. They tell me what happened.
ABS: So, given all of that, how is that different from how you would approach an established band, and what they need to do to maintain their audience?
I don’t know if it’s like a certain complacency sometimes, that they rely upon who it is that they are to kind of get somewhere, which you just can not do. There are a few people today like that, for example; Buddy Guy could choose to do a record every two years, or three years, or four years; it almost doesn’t matter, right? B.B. King. John Mayer. You know, all these names, and they’ll still retain that audience.
There’s only a handful of them that could really kind of get away with that; make a record every two years and then of course win every award imaginable. (But) they are always in the eyes and the ears of the people. Whether it be touring, people talking about your tours, and your shows, whatever. You have to have that consistency today, more so than ever before. You always need to be in the eyes and the ears of the people. Even if you decide to only make a record every two years, you can’t drop the ball in between.
You always have to be talking about something, or people have to be talking about you, or reading about you, or listening to you on the radio, or whatever. You know today, to me, it’s tougher now than it was ever before. So, you have to be at it all the time.
ABS: Yeah, the attention span of people now …
Very short. It’s very short!
ABS: Well, it’s certainly not because you’re getting bombarded, whether it’s on your phone, your tablet, your TV, driving down the highway. You turn on the radio, and you might get 30 minutes of music, and the other 30 minutes is all commercials.
Yep. Commercials or talking!
ABS: Nobody has an attention span anymore.
It’s really like that of a two-year-old. It’s really funny. Taking into consideration people’s attention spans today, which to me, is that of a two-year-old, right? I never write an e-mail to be condescending. However, my experience has told me that if I ask three things, I’ll get two answers. If I ask two things, I’ll get one thing answered. So, my e-mails, generally, are maybe three lines.
That’s it. I mean I don’t try to be condescending, or to be insulting, or whatever else, but knowing where people are at today, the little time that they have, and how much they are bombarded, I have definitely learned to get to the point. I say what it is that has to be said, and over and out. Unless it’s personal, then it’s a different story, you know? If it’s business related, I’m telling you, I usually keep it to like one question, and then, about three lines. Anything more than that, I never get the questions answered.
Bottom line. This is the way I operate. I give everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody, unless you are an absolute, total asshole, you know, ‘get the f**k away from me’ type person, I always give a person the time of day. I will always answer every e-mail I get. I don’t pick and choose. You know what? Even if someone approached me about something and I am by no means the right person, I will always get back to them. So to me, I operate it very simple. I give you respect, the very basic common courtesy, as individuals, as people, give to one another. Basic respect. All-I-ask-for-in-return, is that same respect.
I’ve been doing this for 35 years. Show me very simple respect. If I shoot you off an e-mail, if I call you. I ain’t saying you have to drop everything you’re doing and get back to me right away, but, in a week’s time, you can’t get back to me? You can tell me ‘Go away!’ OK. I’ll go away, you know? I got a response. Yeah. Just tell me something. That’s it. That pisses me off more than anything else.
ABS: Tell us what you see artists and bands doing well, and also, some of the mistakes you see them making?
Some of my artists, Victor Wainwright, J.P.Soars, Damon Fowler, this guy I’m working with, Jeff Jenson … Here’s the thing for me; they’re approachable. There is not an once of arrogance, ego, anything about them when you meet them. They are so personable, so welcoming in a way? They’ll stop and talk to anybody and make it feel like they’re special. To me, that seems to be the most common denominator. I’ve never really personally met B.B. King. I’ve never really personally met Buddy Guy. I would say, and I’m sure that they would say it too, that a good part of their success is remaining humble. I don’t think that those guys forgot about where they came from. You know, even if you give the people the impression that you’re no better than … I would love to see a lot of these younger people today do a tour on the Chitlin’ Circuit. I would love to see them do a juke joint tour, and see what it was like for the guys that we so respect and admire today.