Commercial Break: Non-Comm 2018

Non-Comm 2018

Once again, the convention gods are blessing us with one of the more chill, and music-y gatherings going. Putting the calm in Non-Comm, Philly is, as ever, playing host to a bevy of programmers, artists, and all around cool cats for this year’s Non-Comm (okay, okay, we’ll say “vention” too.)  It all goes down May 15th to 18th, so, mark your calendars- now that you’ve got your taxes in, you got a month to go before you’ll be frolicing live music/panel discussion style.

And frolic you will.  Artists on tap so far include Brandi Carlile, Belly, The Wood Brothers, alongside Nathaniel Rateliff (and yes, his Night Sweats), Angelique Kidjo, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, plus oodles more. Make sure you catch the panels wisely though– while still catching “Feed the Tree” live.  I mean, c’mon!!

This year’s promise to tackle timely big guns. Opening day endeavors to predict and mold what’s ahead for Adult, Album, and Alternative listeners and programmers alike. Panelists won’t be afraid to drill down on the meaty issues, i.e. “Vitality and Sustainability,” and how they’re defined.  What’s the secret sauce?

Drilling down further, topics will include the role of local music in that overall recipe.  Also addressing the position of the medium overall, they’re heady questions, for sure.

“Women Who Rock” is a chance to take more than a moment’s look at women making waves and the issues impacting those working in this world we call music and radio.

Time will be devoted as well to NPR’s fabulously-named Slingshot, NPR’s group effort to introduce their picks for rising stars, led by KCRW, WFUV, WGBH, XPN, KEXP and more.

All of this builds up of course to the legendary Music Meeting. Yes, of course, with Songlines’ Sean Coakley.

Angelique Kidjo and Jeff Bhasker

All in all, it’s a chance for folks from the unique world of Non-Comm radio to revel and exchange ideas.  And with that, there is significant overlap with folks in the commercial world. NPR news coverage recently devoted some space to AAA, spotlighting the swath of stations across both Comm and Non-Comm audiences. With more than 100 AAA stations nationwide, they’re cross sectioned evenly between commercial and non-commercial.   And to be fair, AAA can be pretty broadly defined. (A former program director to my MD once told me “Programming Triple A is like herding cats.”)

There are specific nuances attributed to Non-Comm, for sure.  Jim McGuinn, PD of Minnesota’s the Current shared, “The non-commercial stations are much more freewheeling, willing to take chances and play a wider variety of sounds and styles and dig a little deeper into albums and artists. “

And as Dan Reed expounded to Play MPE, “When you get to Non-Comm radio, Our P1s give us money so the intensity’s up a little bit. The good thing about Non-Comm stations is most of the people who support these stations and are P1s and are members of our stations expect us to take chances to some degree. They expect us to play more new music. They expect us to make mistakes sometimes. Our hardcore listeners, people that really care about the station, understand it’s a continuous experiment trying to find the right kind of stuff to play. I find them very forgiving, the public radio audience… That sense of ownership is there.”

What It Means to Be Americana


In an era so famously divisive about what it means to be American, we tip our hats to what it means to be Americana.

A farmer once described radio listeners to me as cattle, connecting with their herd– commuting each day, in unison, joined by a common frequency broadcast inside their vehicles. Often times, there is overlap– or crossover, in radio speak- in those audiences and formats.

Many NonComm stations are Triple A. But, not all Triple A stations are NonComm. Lots of Triple A stations play Americana. But not all Triple A artists can be defined as Americana. With all these distinctions, audiences, and stations often-times served by swirlingly simultaneous conventions, it’s befitting to pay each their tribute.

Defined by… some authority, Americana has been described as “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band. (Let’s meanwhile, tip our hats as well to the unnamed professorial responsible for that primer!)

As ever, Play MPE has been pleased to… Play our part in sharing some of Americana’s finest with the world this year.

Legacy Recordings gave us Johnny Cash: Forever Words, featuring Alison Krauss & Union Station, Ruston Kelly & Kacey Musgraves, Kris Kristofferson & Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Chris Cornell–and, as they say, more.

Not to be outdone, mind you, countless other recent gems, including those from: Son Volt (Thirty Tigers), Motel Mirrors feat. Amy LaVere, John Paul Keith & Will Sexton (Last Chance Records), Red Wanting Blue (Blue Élan Records) Rita Coolidge, Greyhounds (Bud’s Recording Services), Rosanne Cash (Sony Legacy), Anna & Elizabeth (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings), Dave Alvin & Jimmy Dale Gilmore (Yep Roc Records), Joshua Hedley (Red Light Management—Third Man Records), Loreena McKennitt (UMe), Secret Sisters (New West Records), Kacey Musgraves/Golden Hour (MCA Nashville). (For good measure, Kacey is sitting high atop the Billboard Americana chart as of this writing).

With all that talent in just a cluster of a recent sampling, it’s no wonder that Rolling Stone gave some real estate to the format in 2017, rightly noting its rising popularity: “(in) the last few years (it’s)become a commercially viable format in the pop marketplace.” Also noted is the presence of a Grammy category and -behold- a Merriam Webster definition.

Recently made available on Amazon Prime, Sir Doug and the Genuine Cosmic Groove. The award -winning documentary was written and directed by Texas music journalist Joe Nick Patoski, an homage to the life and music of Doug Sahm, called one of the greatest and under-celebrated pioneers of modern roots music. (John Allen, President of New West Records shared this about the former child prodigy: “I think he’s the definition of Tex Mex. His band was phenomenal.”)

Americanafest is just a few short months away, and promises to be an appropriate celebration, with well over 250 artists performing, September 11-16 in Nashville. Those already announced include the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Leeann Womack and Friends, Alejandro Escovedo, Mary Gauthier, and Kim Richey to name just a few. As always, Laurie Gail, Play MPE’s VP of Label & Radio Relations, will be in attendance. Hit her up at

To whet your Americana appetite further, check your Play MPE account for the hottest Americana releases from the previous month:

1. Various Artists – Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin  MCA Nashville
2. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour  MCA Nashville
3. Old Crow Medicine Show – Volunteer  Columbia Nashville
4. Neko Case – Bad Luck  Anti
5. Various Artists – Johnny Cash: Forever Words the Music  Legacy Recordings
6. Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Downey to Lubbock  Yep Roc Records
7. Neil Young – ROXY – TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT LIVE  Reprise Records
8. Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johannson – Bad Dreams  Capitol Records
9. Son Volt – Waking World  Thirty Tigers/Transmit Sound
10. Glen Phillips – Amnesty  Compass Records


Industry Spotlight: Rick Barker

Rick BarkerConversing with Rick Barker, one has an immediate inclination to do more and be more.  It’s befitting an audience with one whose music industry template background has organically led to the position he happily finds himself:  keeper and sharer of the blueprint.

With 15 years of radio under his belt, the booming voiced former morning man and voice of Big Machine Radio, tackles the industry and way more with topics like “The Best Advice for Young Artists Trying to Stand Out” and “Being Your Authentic Self: Knowing Your Strengths and Goals.” Ideal for anyone, particularly those in transition, the podcasts are as thorough and motivating as a conversation with the born storyteller.

Barker shared with us a bit about the trajectory from radio guy, to Taylor Swift manager, to guru in the position of bequeathing his knowledge to those navigating these wild music biz waters.

“My whole life I wanted to be on the radio. I’ve always loved music, I just never had the skill to learn an instrument, or the patience and I wasn’t brought up with the luxury of having disposable income, to be able to take lessons or things like that. But when my mom and dad divorced, we ended up in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and we were part of that Muscle Shoals sound. My mom’s boyfriend was Roger Clark, he was a drummer for Paul Anka and on the Muscle Shoals documentary that was on Netflix. Roger is thanked in the credits as being one of those that helped. So, we got brought to Muscle Shoals, I spent a good portion of my youth in the South. Mobile disk jockey, I was the kid that would record the countdowns, how the DJs did it. I tried to emulate that, when you could go back to the days of having cassettes and being able to do all that. Ended up with some personal issues that went on in my life with a drug addiction and things like that. But when I got sober in 1989, the first thing I did was is I got an internship at KISS FM in Los Angeles and it was what inspired me to want to do more. I ended up as a producer for Hollywood Hamilton, ended up as part of his live show from Disney Land, and in 1991 got my chance to be on the air full-time in Santa Barbara and did a whole radio career in Santa Barbara until Scott Borchetta brought me out and hired me up at Big Machine Records.”

Candid in speaking of his sobriety, Barker shares his experiences with others facing challenges.

“What I tell children right now and will I tell kids, and when I speak at colleges…I’ll be 51 years old here in a couple of weeks and I’ve been sober for 26 years, so over half my life. I try to explain to them, it’s not really what you do, it’s what you do after. We’re all gonna have obstacles thrown our way. We’re all going to have certain things that come our way. So it’s up to us to be able to get through those and move on and hopefully share your experiences with others so they can grow from it as well.”

That tendency towards sharing knowledge served Big Machine’s roster and beyond.  Upon connecting with Scott, Barker had begun a program called Nashville To You.  “It was the only program that ever was getting artists paid on radio tour. I helped with Sugarland and Little Big Town and Rodney Atkins and some of Scott’s other artists, Julie Roberts, and Josh Turner was the first artist that went out on it. So I’d kinda gotten on his radar. Then when him and Toby Keith decided that they were gonna split up, Show Dog and Big Machine, he was going to let Toby keep the promotion staff, and then he was going to hire his own promotion staff and I was the first guy that he hired on the promotion side. And it was awesome because I didn’t know what I was getting into. One of the things that I asked him early on, I said, “Scott you could hire anyone you want,” I said, “Why me?” And he goes “I’m gonna say this as a compliment, but it’s not going to sound that way.” He says, “You’re too dumb to know any better.” And I’m like “How is that a compliment?” “Rick,” he says, “I’m starting this label with a regional act out of Texas named Jack Ingram, Daniel Peck who’s already had an unsuccessful attempt at it at DreamWorks, and this 15-year-old named Taylor Swift that no one’s ever heard of.” He says, “A lot of people will use that as an excuse on why it’s not going to work. You just need to go in one direction.”

Rick BarkerA teacher at heart himself, Barker is quick to acknowledge those, including Scott, from whom he’s gleaned lasting lessons. “He always taught me to think different. One of the things he always used to teach all of us was “start at crazy, and work backwards.” And that was crazy! The label he was starting, at the time he was starting it. We were having trouble breaking female acts at that time, and he’s starting a label where two out his three acts are female and one of them is a teenager.”

Barker shared more about the early days launching said teenager’s career.  “It was a slow process because Taylor had just been writing music up to that point. So the way that I got brought into the picture was he’s like “Hey, let’s take her out on that little tour that you were doing and let’s give her a chance to know radio, let’s give radio a chance to get to know her.” It was a great opportunity. One is that she was eager and willing to do the work and two that he trusts me, and we already had this process set up before. We’d seen it work for other artists, so it was a great opportunity for her to able to come in and really get her feet wet learning radio while she was introducing them to her music and, more importantly I think, her personality and her work ethic.

“I’ve always been a teacher at heart. I always tell people I’m a terrible manager. The latter part of Taylor’s stage was my whole day was spent telling people “no” on her behalf. That really sucks for someone like me because I want to get out there and I love the early part, I love the development side, I love the building the fan-base side, I love the trying new things. I love that innocence of “new.” As things and success starts to happen and things start to come along, that kinda goes away. I was never wired for that. It never really worked out well for me.”

For those of us inspired and looking to mimic the blueprint, if you will, Rick shares a tip.

“I read a book called The Millionaire Messenger by Brendon Burchard, and the premise of that book was “make a difference and make a living sharing your knowledge and experience with others.” And what was happening about that time is I was with Taylor until 2008, and when I left in 2008 all these dads were showing in Nashville with their daughters in sundresses and cowboy boots, thinking that as the magic formula. “This is what made Taylor successful, she was a teenager and she wore sundresses and cowboy boots.”

“What I realized was that there were a lot of people, and good people, that were recently out of work because of the changes that were taking place, and they were advising these families and these people who came to town, “Here’s what we’ll do, we’ll get everybody that played on the Carrie Underwood record, we’ll get the same people that shoot the videos, we’ll hire a radio promotion team, we’ll go out on radio tour.” A couple hundred thousand dollars later, these poor families were no farther along than when they got here.  What I realized early on was that there’s no Chamber of Commerce for the music business. It’s like the wild wild west. Whoever you run into, they’re going to tell you what the best plan is, and at that point everyone knew one plan: record a song, take it to radio, and cross your fingers. And I’m like, “That is the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard.” The way that the internet is changing and the way that the ability to get direct access to your fans and the cost of recording has gone down and the ability to put your own music up for sale and the ability to put your own music up now to be streamed, why are we spending all that money? And now we’re not selling CDs anymore so the record companies were going from splitting dollars to splitting percentages of pennies.”

And, as Rick explains, Play MPE is indeed a part of the process. “Play MPE is a tool that delivers your music to these radio stations, but it’s up to you to build up the relationship with the radio stations and it’s up to you to give radio a reason to play your music. There’s no shortage of pretty people that can sing, there’s no shortage of good music that’s out there. Your music’s gotta be great, and Play MPE is a tool that delivers that, but there is so much that you need to do on your own to be able to take advantage of that. It’s like, your car drives you to the restaurant, your car does not eat for you or pull out your chair or order for you, it just drives you to the restaurant. That’s what Play MPE is, it’s a car that gets you to the location that you want to be at, but it’s up to you to create a buzz.”

Barker expands on the nature of building a career in 2018’s music industry.  “The artist development needs to be on the artist. Create a buzz for yourself. Stay independent as long as you can and then that way if you do decide to go into a partnership with a label, you’re now a partner, you’re not an employee. So I decided that I would go out and invest in myself and learn as much as I could about the digital marketing space, learn as much as I could about psychology and human behavior, understand the decision making process when it comes to making online purchases, and then I would go out and teach that to as many people as possible.”

Rick wouldn’t stop there, though. There are classroom-worthy pearls to be absorbed, just in conversation. “What people don’t understand, especially independent artists, is they think they’re in competition with every other independent artist. Who they’re in competition with are the people already signed to the labels, the people already on the radio stations. The radio program director, in my opinion, has one job, and that’s not to lose their job. It’s not to make my artist famous, it’s to make sure that they’re playing music that is familiar and will keep their audience from tuning away. That’s it, that’s the only job. Now, if you can go out and create a buzz and if you can go out and create an opportunity for that radio station person to partner with you, to say, “Hey, we want you to check out this artist, he’s got blank blank blank.” If you give the DJ something to say besides, “here’s this very unfamiliar person you’ve never heard of and sounds like everybody else that’s out there.” That’s not attractive.

We’ve gotta give people a reason to want to get on board with us, and social media gives us that opportunity to get our music out there. Companies like Play MPE, Spotify, CD Baby, they give us the ability to get our music out to the masses. One of my mentors said to me, “If you have a message that can change people’s lives, it’s your responsibility to find them, it’s not their responsibility to find you.” So, that’s what I do on a day to day basis.”

With an infectious go forth and prosper attitude, Rick expounds about what’s ahead, including a return to artist management, with Trent Harmon.  “He’s got a fantastic new song. Him and I grew a lot over the last year with some of the trials and tribulations that I was witnessing him go through that made me a stronger person, by all means made him a stronger person. I’m excited about the new podcast that I’ve started. And I’m just excited right now that there are more and more opportunities for independent artists to go out and create their own buzz. There was a time when we were so dependent on someone else to validate us, and that’s not the case anymore, and I’m excited about that.”

And we’re excited to hear more!

Faces of Play MPE: Sandra Boenisch

SandraThis month’s ode to MPE-er is to a CFO-er, Sandra Boenisch.  As a word girl myself, I’m always doubly impressed by numbers folks, and hope some of those applicable skills will seep through osmotically…Gave it a shot here and learned there’s more to Mz. Sandra than numbas!

Now in the role of CFO, Sandra shared with us a bit about her background.  Having come from a financial services- inclined family (dad and sister are both accountants), Sandra left the auditing world five years ago, setting out as a consultant to public companies, before ultimately putting roots down with Destiny.   “In my consulting role I was only focused on doing the financial reporting,  but now I’ll be getting more into how the rest of the business world works. There’s still been a lot to learn, even though I had some familiarity in the past with Destiny as a consultant.  I technically have been CFO of another company before, but I wasn’t even in the same city.  It’s a New York company. So this is the first time where I feel like I’m actually part of a team. In a lot of ways, it’s a first time.”

We spoke of Play MPE’s enviable atmosphere, one which is part of a mix that continues to ensure longevity and low turnover.  “Everyone is very nice and works hard because it’s a smaller company.  And I like that the company has a very diverse culture. I have enjoyed so far the social events and company lunches.”

Sandra makes time for those social events around her busy schedule as a mom of 3 kids, ages 10, 8, and 5.  Time on weekends can include time at the gym, time outdoors/gardening and skiing.  “We’re just teaching our kids. We just went to Big White for spring break and our youngest, who’s five finally learned to ski, so now we can all ski together, which is very exciting.”   Sandra will be ready for the slopes as a regular Cross -fitter.   Myself, being more of a spectator, I ask for some color commentary for those less in the know.

“It’s a fitness class where each day you go it’s something different. So they’ll put the workout of the day on the board, called the WOD. There’s maybe 30 different movements used. Some of it is Olympic weight lifting-type stuff, some of it’s gymnastics, like pull-ups and that sort of thing. It’ll be some sort of mash-up of those exercises that everyone does together. So it’s competitive, and never boring.”  It’s all about confusing the muscles, right?

It’s quite a different schedule from the pre-parenthood days, of course, when Sandra spent time as a model. “After high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet and I got invited to do some modeling.  So I went to first to Toronto, then Chicago and over to Europe for a bit. It was fun for a time, but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t particularly like traveling as much I thought I would, and I’m not fashionably inclined.   So, it wasn’t really for me, but it was a good experience for sure.

After about a year I decided to move back home and do the CGA program.  I had always enjoyed finance and numbers, and this was good because I could do it while working. I really enjoyed the program and the work.”

And the rest is history.  From modeling to auditing, Sandra is now surrounded by music geeks.  (Sandra gives a shout-out to one of her favorite artists, Hillsong, from Australia.)   In fact, Sandra’s family even schedules “music video nights,” during which they each take a few turns picking a music video to share and enjoy, often in themes of rock, or 80s, 90s, or Christian music. They have the chops to create their own group too!  Sandra and her son play piano, while her daughter sings and husband plays guitar.

Sandra’s humble, though, and quick to note “My music knowledge is terrible. But I really like listening to all kinds of music.” We’ll let everyone else duke it out what year Scritti Politti released “Perfect Way,” sleeping soundly knowing Sandra’s got the books covered.

Enter Musicman

Music lovers, all of us, we can all put ourselves back in that crowded venue, during that perfect encore, during our favorite song.  Wishing we could return to it again and again.   Back in the day, that meant geekily scouring obscure catalogs of muddy, poor quality bootlegs…perhaps feeling a bit guilty about the contra band. More recently, we would eat up hard drive space, bit torrenting our way into the wee hours of the morning, trying to find that Dylan cover Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck played in Boston. Well, I have anyway. Still searching.

I’m wishing Exit Live was around that night in April, 2013.

The company has launched a platform for artist and fans– delivering live music to nearly anyone, anywhere.  Founded by tech gurus and music fans (our kinda peeps), Exit Live is available in every country but just these four:  North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan and Timor-Leste.

Guaranteeing artists 80% of sales the moment fans make a purchase, the company aims to provide a secure and morally sound route for artists, bands, and other ensembles to share their recorded works and still maintain control of their music and sales.

Founder of Exit Live Giorgio Serra says, “Right from the very beginning we have built Exit Live from the artist’s point of view. Artist first, always, Giorgio Serra, founder of Exit Live says.  “It’s a passion for everyone involved and it’s about making a change for all artists. It’s been a labor of love for all of us involved and we want to empower artists and make sure that they are rewarded transparently, properly and when they choose.  There are many negative issues when it comes to artists being compensated properly. We want to change this and I hope that Exit Live will be a positive step in that direction”.

They’ve cut out the long wait for distributors, promising a record “as the last verse of an encore is still being heard.”  The platform isn’t just for sweaty club shows.  Classical enthusiasts have a new means to hear current works for their favorite performers, perfect accompaniment to a Sunday evening making dinner.

British Mezzo-Soprano Dame Sarah Connolly says, “So many people tell me how sad they are to miss x, y & z concert. Exit Live will provide them (and me) with the chance of sharing concerts in places not covered by radio stations. I would encourage artists and Festivals to get on board.”

An equally ringing endorsement comes from the equally esteemed conductor Suzi Digby OBE. “Exit Live is an innovative platform that all artists and ensembles can use successfully, providing their audiences with concert recordings quickly and at a price that is decided by the artist. The ability to receive payment immediately and with such good favorable rates for the artist, I can foresee Exit Live becoming a trusted part of our audience engagement”.

Think peeps can help me with that April 24, 2013 Paradise show?

Remembering Country Singer Daryle Singletary (1971-2018)

This month saw the Country Music world robbed of a singular talent.  Singer Daryle Singletary passed at home in Tennessee at the age of 46.

Singeltary’s career boasts over a dozen songs in the country music charts, including “Too Much Fun,” “I Let Her Lie” and “I’m Living Up to Her Low Expectations,” produced by Randy Travis.

The son of a postmaster and hairdresser, Daryle Bruce Singletary grew up with music a part of his every day.  Born in Cairo, GA, Daryle sang gospel songs regularly with his brother and cousins, and enjoyed family trips every summer to Music City.  Speaking with the Tennessean, in 1998, Singletary had shared, “It was the biggest deal for me to go to Opryland to the Barbara Mandrell record-your-own-voice studio there. I recorded (the Hank Williams classic) Your Cheatin’ Heart. … I think I was 12 or 13.”

Singletary made his home in Music City in 1990, playing clubs regularly, and eventually releasing his self-titled debut on Giant in 1995.  Last summer saw the release of classic country duets, American Grandstand, with Rhonda Vincent. It befits Singletary’s legacy, whose body of work served as an homage to the classic sound. Singletary was quoted, “I’ve been fortunate to be able to always keep it real and not have to compromise.” Vincent heard the news while in the studio with Dolly Parton and Mavis Staples. Taking to Facebook live, she shared “He’s a dear friend. I am stunned. … Our prayers go out to Daryle’s wife and his children.”   Vincent joins a list of collaborators including George Jones and Johnny Paycheck, Dwight Yoakum, Merle Haggard, Ricky Skaggs, John Anderson and Vince Gill.

True to his traditional country sound, Singletary released There’s Still a Little Country Left in 2015.  The album included “Get Out of My Country” in which Daryle sang “If you want to do it right, do it like old George Jones. … If you came to twang town just for the money, then pack it up, son, get out of my country.”  Found on his official website, Singeltary’s own words: “There are still people out there who want to hear traditional country music.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to always keep it real and not have to compromise.”  Upon its release, Daryle recalled “When I moved to Nashville in 1990, I left Georgia telling my daddy, ‘I want to make my living in country music. I didn’t tell him I wanted to be played on the radio every day or be on a video channel every day. I said, ‘I want to make a living playing for the people who enjoy my kind of music.’ Fortunately, and thankfully, I have been able to do that since 1995.”

Chuck Rhodes, president of On the Rhodes Entertainment, was kind enough to take some time to speak with us from Nashville during a very difficult week.  We asked Chuck how long ago he first connected with Daryle.

“I was kind of looking back. I kind of miscalculated. I originally told someone 21 years, but it’s now been 25 years. His first record came out on Giant records, the self-titled record “Daryle Singletary” on Giant in ’95 and I had come in as Nashville promotion director at Giant in about 1994, when the label was just getting kind of off the ground for a couple years. I had met Daryle there.  I worked for Nick Hunter and he was the head of promotion for Giant and VP of promotion, and he had worked at Warner Bros for years, with Randy Travis, so Randy called Nick and James Stroud, who was president of the label at the time, and said, “I want you to hear this young man,” Randy and at the time his ex-wife, Lib Hatcher had managed him, managed Randy, and said “We found a young man we want you to hear,” and we brought some stuff over to play, and I’ve never heard a voice like that before in my life.”

Chuck continued, “So, James and Nick put a deal together very quickly, we signed him, and we put his first record out in 1995, which harbored several hits, but the biggest couple of ones were ‘I Let Her Lie’ and ‘Too Much Fun’, off the first album.  We kept moving along through the years, after Giant Records. Nick and I went on to form a label called Audium Records, and that was distributed by Koch, which was, at the time, one of the largest independent record labels in America.”

Chuck spoke with reverence, remembering Singletary’s many collaborations, including those on That’s Why I Sing This Way.  “We had several guest artists singing on it, which were his heroes. George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck, Dwight Yoakum.”   Daryle sang a song of Johnny Paycheck’s called ‘Old Violin.’”

“That record Johnny Paycheck wrote, had a hit back in the 80s, but one of the things we did there, which was a little different is, Daryl sung the record and then Johnny was in the last few months of his life in a nursing home and we went over and he did a recitation at the end of the record. And if you listen to it, you go online and listen to it, there was a very poignant recitation that Johnny did on his original record and we asked him to kind of recreate it. And he did do it at the end of the record and it was actually Johnny Paycheck at the end of the record speaking this little recitation. That was one of the last things that we did before John passed away.  And just a very poignant moment.   For everybody. We went back after we finished the record and had it all mixed out. I remember us going back at that time with Nick Hunter and with Daryle and me and then at the time and through the years, Johnny Paycheck’s manager was a gentleman by the name of Marty Martel and he went with us. John was just so excited to hear it and we played it for him. Man, I tell ya, there just wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

It’s clear that Chuck has countless stories of his time Daryle, whom he calls “our best country singer that we had in what we call the modern era of country music, through the last twenty years.” Chuck spoke of Singletary’s commitment to the traditional country sound, and its fans, continuing to “fulfill that fan base that was out there that was starving for traditional country music… You know those folks are out there. They love traditional country music. They’re Daryle Singletary fans and they still love traditional country music.  That’s one thing that Daryle was so blessed with, is that we really hadn’t had in the past fourteen years. We really hadn’t had a big record on the radio. But, he still maintained an incredible fan base and he still worked over a hundred days a year. And so, we were just so blessed.”

Beyond, though, his mark on country music is Singletary’s love for and dedication to his family.  Rhodes shared, “He is first and foremost a family man, and I told several people that this week.  He loved his family more than anything else in this world. He and his wife, Holly, been married 14 years. They wanted to start a family early. It took a while to get that going, but now have four beautiful children.  He loved his family so much. I’d been there almost 26 years with him now where we would, maybe back in the day we’d be out riding the bus, playing shows and we might take a few minutes to sit around after a show and continue to play with the boys on the bus and sing some country western songs and have a good time, where in the past … I guess the oldest, the twins are seven now, so in the past six, seven years, the priority was to get on the bus and go home.  I can say unequivocally, Daryle Singletary was a family man. As he transitioned into this new phase of his life, he was a Christian man. He loved the Lord and he loved his family. And that was his priority to get back and be with them. He knew he had to go out on the road. He knew he had to go out and work. And he loved his fans, but as he transitioned into father, husband … that role, that became his most important role.”

Donations may be made to The Daryle Singletary Foundation Keepin’ It Country fund, benefiting Daryle Singletary’s family, via:

The Daryle Singletary Foundation Keepin’ It Country
c/o Franklin Synergy Bank
Attn: Ellen May
Senior Vice President
Sports, Music and Entertainment Group
33 Music Square West Unit 110B
Nashville, TN 37203
Cell: 615-351-0086

Mourners have taken to social media in tribute:

Hip Hop and Faith

What a pleasure to talk to Kevin Felder, and his alter-ego Big Redd.   While he lays claim to an alter-ego, an ego appears nowhere to be found.   A renaissance man to the core, Kevin has devoted and dispersed his talents as an artist and entrepreneur across radio, records, advertising, social media, and, perhaps most notably, as a mentor to those seeking his kind of success with the very same.

There’s the entrepreneur Kevin Felder, the founder of The Euniek Group, which helps small and medium-sized business navigate through radio, tv, and advertising.  And, there’s the artist.  And that artist is currently making big waves.  Marrying hip hop and gospel, Big Redd is resonating across the charts with a song that is as honest as it is infectious. A collaboration with gospel giant Fred Hammond, “Running Back to You” is what Big Redd describes as an “introspective look into times in our lives when we possibly encounter God and provides hope that no matter how far we get from God we can always run back to Him.”

Big Redd was kind enough to take the time to speak to us about his remarkable path as an artist an entrepreneur, and the opportunity he’s forged to spread the good word. And the path he forged wasn’t always as deliberate. “I had no idea that I would be in music, in the radio industry, entertainment, at all. It never was a desire of mine. I actually was on the medical track… I was even pre-med going into college. I graduated from Wake Forest University. But that was it. I knew I was going to be a doctor, but once I got to Wake and started taking classes, and really started kind of having a heart search, I really got convicted about my motives for wanting to be a doctor. I really just wanted six-figures, and to be able to play golf and drive a nice car, and, specifically I wanted to be an anesthesiologist, and I was like ‘I can work Monday through Friday, have my weekends to myself, travel,’ and really all of those things had nothing to do with serving people. So, I was like ‘Okay, what do I really want to do?’  And so, I settled … Well I shouldn’t say settled, but aligned with my true life purpose, which is communication.”

Kevin continued, touching on the role of his faith early on in that path. “Specifically, for me, as a Christian, and becoming a Christian while I was in college, I just became so aware of my life calling. Which will be to communicate God’s love to people all over the world. And I didn’t know what that would look like then, but I knew once I started as a communication major, that I was gaining the skills that I would use in some future platform. But even then, I had no idea that it would be in music and in the radio industry. So, it’s just beautiful how God can kind of set you up, and give you all the skills you need and a life experience, and then sit you on this platform and it’s like that’s what all the other things were for. So …here I am.”

It was perhaps by chance that Big Redd combined his talents, encouraged to do so by his peers. “They blessed me, they pushed me forward to go pursue it. And that’s when I began my solo rap career as Big Redd. This retreat that I went to, I believe it was my junior year of college, and some guys introduced me to Christian rap. And I had never heard of Christian rap before. I had been rapping since I was in middle school. But it was always a hobby, and I would rap in different talent shows, and I was the guy. People were like ‘Oh, Kevin knows how to rap, so get him to do it.’ I was that guy. And, never really thought much of doing it again. Once I gave my life to Christ, I was like “Okay, hip hop and Jesus, they probably don’t go together.’ So, nobody forced me, but I was just like “These two probably aren’t going to go together well,” so I just had kind of put rapping down.

Big Redd’s career arc has shown him the ropes from the perspective of artist and industry insider.

Kevin manages the radio group Millennial FM, 95.9 in Columbia, South Carolina. “The cool thing about Millennial FM is that it’s the genre of music that I’m in as an artist. So being on a path where for six, going on seven years, of being an independent artist, pushing, trying to get radio airplay, trying to make the case for this genre of music to gospel, to hip hop. Like, our music is either too gospel for hip hop and it’s too hip hop for gospel to play it, traditionally speaking. So, there’s really no home for you in terms consistent national or even local, regional radio airplay. So, being part of Millennial is special to me because we’re creating the outlet that somebody like me would be looking for six, seven years ago. So, it means a lot to me to be a part of offering a platform to emerging artists. And for us to do it well so that we can replicate this across the country.”

A man of focus, Kevin continues, speaking openly about this day to day, balancing it all. “It’s also still a huge passion of mine to create my own music. So, it inspires me to see other up and coming artists on their grind and doing their thing. And it’s like, ‘Okay well you’re not a dinosaur, you gotta stay in the game, keep doing your own music as well.’ The majority of my day is focusing on Millennial FM. Then I’m a husband, I have a six-year-old and a three-year-old so I’m a husband and daddy. Really husband and dad first. God first, family second, business is third…I kind of start Big Red after the kids are asleep. That’s when I’m writing. That’s when I go to a coffee shop and write or go to the studio, things of that nature. So, it’s a delicate balance and I have a great support system in my wife who just believes in the dream as well and who just allows me the opportunity to spread my hands out in so many different places.”

I can’t help but note how grounded Kevin clearly is, suggesting he could lead motivational seminars …which of course, he already does. “Because of some of the successes that God has granted to me, it’s an honor for people to ask you questions about their careers and the paths they should take. I actually launched a seminar series in my city in partnership with the city of Columbia called the Indie Ground. And it’s, at the time, and still free, as of right now, thanks to our sponsorships. It’s a free feature for emerging music artists to learn the business side of the music industry.  We’ve done sessions, anything from copyrights, contracts, and I’ve brought an entertainment lawyer in to talk about things like that. I brought in some friends in television to talk about how to land a TV interview and how to conduct yourself in a TV interview. How to get free press. Did a seminar called “Can I Get Some Love on the Radio?” And, so I had a program director come in, as well as a studio engineer, to talk about both the technical side as well as the presentation and communication with the program director. How do you get that first radio airplay? How do you keep a song in regular rotation? And be persistent without being a pest. So, this is the type of seminars that I would like to continue and do on a larger scale across the, branching out into my region and then, you know, possibly across the country.”

Alongside those goals, Big Redd shares what’s ahead for him musically. “I’m working on a full album now. I’ve done an EP and I’ve had features on other people’s songs, features on other people’s albums. I’ve put out singles. I’ve never done a full album yet. So, I just feel like I have to tell an entire story at once, in one sitting. So, I want to create this audible piece of art that I leave behind. And that’s very important to me, as an artist, as a creative, to tell this story over 10-12 songs. Not that that’s the music industry format anymore. I don’t know. It’s just important to me to complete that full project.”

Play MPE is thrilled to be a part of that journey. Big Redd continues, gracious in returning the praise.  “A quest for more. That’s why I became a client of Play MPE, because I believed you all could help me get more, to maximize my resources, to be able to reach more people with music that I believe was created to impact the world, literally, and it has done that. So, I’ve told several of my friends and now it’s a part of my regular conversation. Hey, if you haven’t heard of Play MPE, you need to check them out because it’s been positive for me all around.”

Well, ditto, Sir!

Having a Cannonball

Cash Campbell has arrived on the country scene like a cannonball. With his single of the same name, he’s quickly established himself, exemplifying the format’s present and future.  Recently chosen for their Artist Discovery initiative, Campbell has been called by CMT a “true representation of current country for the next generation.”

With over 500,000 views across YouTube and Facebook, Campbell is clearly just getting started.

We had the chance to speak to the Dallas-based singer-songwriter between takes, connecting first about a mutual connection with Guster, whose influence can be heard in Campbell’s ethereal production.  “To me they were going to be Coldplay. They were a huge influence on me when I was a kid.” A high school talent show became a pivotal turning point.

“Two of my buddies that were older than me, in front of our entire high school, played a Guster song. It was like tunnel vision. I remember sitting out in the crowd with 15 hundred other kids in our school and just was enamored. It was a song called “Demons” by Guster.  That was it. It was like this turning point were all of a sudden football and basketball practice just meant a lot less. I just really wanted to get home. I pulled my dad’s old Takamine out of the closet and that was it. I would get home from sports or whatever and would hole myself up in my room for hours and hours, just write these terrible songs. They were so bad.”

Au contraire, one expects, for a young man who had signed a record deal at 19.  Along with his dad’s Takamine, Campbell’s parents shared their musical talents. “My dad was in music. Music was just always part of our life and our house. My mom played piano. My dad sang and directed orchestras and choirs. My sister sang. My grandparents sang. So, naturally all I wanted to do was play basketball. I wanted to play point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. That was my big goal when I was little. To be the point guard for the Mavs.”

Fate had other ideas, affording the young talent experience playing around the globe. “I lived in Stockholm and I got to live in London. We got to play hundreds and hundreds of shows It was amazing. I grew up around country music, obviously being in Texas, but I didn’t understand a lot of the inner workings that went on with the songwriters.  When I got a chance to dive in to country music, which I was thrilled about, I thought I was just going to write songs for other people. That was kind of my big dream, big goal. Oh my gosh, I have this publishing deal and I’m going to get to write for Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood.”

Turns out though, Cash Campbell is the complete package– songwriter, and performer. “Cannonball” has captivated fans of everything from Imagine Dragons to Florida Georgia Line.  The infectious single is the product of a collaboration with Chris LaCorte and Swedish composer Peer Astrom, whose masthead includes Glee’s soundtrack.  With influences ranging from Guster, to Dave Matthews, to Johnny Cash, to Toby Keith, Campbell is well on his way to blazing a new trail for today’s country music.

Those influences are as inspiring to him now as in the days gigging in high school. “We were kids. We were getting a stack of cash and all we could think of was ‘We just played a show for an hour and they paid us 1500 dollars.’ We all had jobs and that just felt good…If your shows and your songs are good enough, people will tell their friends and they’ll come back to the show and back to the show. That was how Guster built it. That was how Dave built it. Honestly, back then I didn’t even care about the songs. It was about the live show. We wanted to put on these amazing shows. I was still really young. Now, I love crafting the songs. I’ve been in seven studios this week. Or six studios. I can’t even remember…. I left here at midnight. I love crafting the songs I just love releasing them out into the world. I also get so pumped to get to go play shows. It’s always that push pull. Obviously, they tell your story and the art that you’re looking to communicate, but I get equally excited with the live shows side.”

That art has come recently in the form of a 6 song EP, with legs. “What we did was, we took all six of those songs and I also created an acoustic version of all of those songs. So, we turned six songs into 12 songs. Then I did a remix, like a dance EDM remix with some buddies. We actually turned six songs into 18 songs.  We are making videos for all of those songs. Rather than just put it all out in one fell swoop with one or two videos, I was like ‘Man, what if we roll this content out over the next year and a half or until we are ready to do the record?’ We had six songs. Now I feel like we have 40 or 50 songs. Of those 40 or 50 we probably … seven or eight of them. That’s how it always goes, right?”

Campbell is gracious and humble speaking about his rise career arc, including the break after touring as a signed artist. “I got a chance to come back onto the country side and I was–I don’t know how to describe it–except I never really tried to do what I’m doing now. I had never really tried to do what I’m doing now. The moment I started doing it in the studio, it just felt so comfortable.  Like it was kinda a fictional moment where I was like, “Oh, I was doing the wrong thing for like 13 years. I had signed a publishing deal when I was very young, and I did not know … Like take Garth Brooks, I just assumed that Garth Brooks wrote all those songs…every song, he wrote some of them, of course but. With encouragement from a high school friend who worked at Warner Bros., Campbell began in 2016 the songwriting path that has led to “Cannonball.”  “I think I thought we were going to find somebody that was 16 or 17 that had slightly more spry than I am. Although, I feel spry most mornings, my intention was not to be the original artist.  We ended up keeping the song, which I’m so thrilled about. We put it out or I put it out … I say we because it’s such a great team and I was in bands for 12 years, so I just like being a part of the team.”

While it may not have been his intention, Cash Campbell is making a name for himself as a songwriter and performer not to be missed.  Click here to hear “Cannonball” and more on your trusted Play MPE Player.

Faces of Play MPE: Says Grace

Play MPE can pick ‘em. And the ‘em in this case is employees, colleagues, team members…the proverbial what have you.  A shining example is newest member of the team, Grace Chao.  Apparent upon any conversation with Grace, she possesses both a worldview and disarming poise striking in a 22-year-old.

The young and hard-working accountant gave us a little of the scoop on her path to Play MPE.

A music fan herself (Coldplay is a fave), Grace’s job-hunting researching led her to Play MPE.

“I just graduated in the summer from university and I was just looking for accounting jobs. I actually did a couple internships in accounting firms before. I thought I would go over and try out the corporate side of things. I looked up and I saw this job ad and I thought I would apply and see how I like it and so far, it’s going very well.”  Indeed, it is!

Music is just one of Grace’s passions.  Fitting for her role as an accountant, she’s a numbers fan as well.  “I’m actually very passionate about multiple things. I like numbers. I also like words. Something that I really like to do is I love to write. It’s one of my hobbies.  One of my dreams actually when I retire is I wish to be an author.”

With a gift for both left and right -brained approaches, Grace nurtures the right brained side and knack for fiction writing as often as possible.  It’s a passion dating all the way back to high school. (a more distant memory for many of us!)

“Currently, I’m writing a fantasy… I’ve actually been working on that since high school and I’m hoping to edit it and maybe publish it one day.”   With a gift for numbers that has already impressed colleagues across the globe, Grace is on target to collect those publishing royalties in retirement.   Prior to her arrival at Play MPE, Grace attended McGill University, after which internships took her beyond her native British Columbia. “At my previous internships I worked in Taiwan and it was very different. Everything was very fast paced and it was a lot of pressure.”   Taiwan also was a treat for Grace’s foodie side, which she explores locally at events like Dine Out Vancouver.

Speaking about her goals, it’s clear that focus has long been an attribute, and one both modeled and encouraged by Grace’s parents. “My parents were pretty strict while I was growing up but they let me do what I want. They try to motivate me. I thought that’s pretty nice of them.”  An only child, Grace devoted downtime to her many interests, including piano, clarinet, and violin.  I really like playing the piano during the times when I’m free. When I’m upset I play and play out my emotions… I think people who grew up alone find ways to be creative so that we’re not so isolated by ourselves.”

Grace is a natural spokesperson for two books that come up during our conversation.  “A book I really liked was called Good to Great… Do you know the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? I like that book because it really inspired me to become a better person and how I view life and the things around me.”

As for the things around her at Play MPE?  Those are great. “Everyone is very nice. Everyone is helpful. I’m learning a lot.  I really enjoy most of what I do here. Just interacting with different people. I’m an accountant. So, I sometimes talk to Alen. I talk with Katja to coordinate releases and stuff. I’ve also done some release approvals to help Alen when he was away, during certain days. And I really enjoy working with my manager. She’s also new. The two of us, we work together. We figure things out. If we make mistakes, we try to come up with solutions together and that’s a nice challenge for both.”

Welcome aboard, Grace!

Credit Score

Pick you metaphor– what once was old is new again; what goes around comes around.  Both could be at the core of technology’s latest nod to analog as Spotify has announced its recent decision to add songwriter and producer credits to the behemoth service.

In a world of ones and zeros, liner notes have become as quaint as a doorstep adorned with the morning paper. But not so fast.  Like most things that go by the way side, eventually, they are afforded the opportunity to shine anew to a fresh and previously uninitiated audience. While I quite enjoyed the recent storage unit discovery of a treasure trove of CD long boxes, my teenage nephews would not know of the purpose these cardboard beauties served.

Buying a record used to mean something to hear, yes, but it was also something to open, to pore over, to dissect the liner notes. Who wrote what. What does the band want us to know about these new songs? Who took the publicity photos? Who played triangle?

With Spotify’s “Show Credits” right click option, some of that glory returns.  “Songwriters are an integral force behind the music we love,” said Tiffany Kumar, Global Head of Songwriter Relations, Spotify. “With the newly launched credits feature, we aim to increase songwriter and producer visibility and, in turn, foster discovery among new collaborators, industry partners, and fans.”

“The more we share information, the more opportunities we can help create for songwriters,” added Annika Goldman, ‎Director of Music Publishing Operations, Spotify. “This is just the beginning of making songwriter and producer credits more easily available to Spotify listeners, and we look forward to continually improving that information, in close collaboration with our music industry partners.”

Songwriter Ali Tamposi, whose credits include songs for Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, and others, shared “We’re all artists in our own right, and every artist appreciates being recognized for their hard work. I’m excited and grateful to see this new feature on Spotify.”   Frank Dukes, whose credit include Lorde and Camila Cabello echoed the sentiments. ““It’s amazing to see Spotify give the unsung heroes of music some recognition on their platform. Definitely a step in the right direction.”

It wasn’t so long ago the Don Was (Was Not Was) opined of “the death of liner notes” to HuffPo.  “The first time I heard of Charles Ives, Willie Dixon, Captain Beefheart, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Eric Dolphy was when I read that list of 150 random notables (titled “People Who Have Contributed Materially in Many Ways to Make Our Music What It Is – Please Do Not Hold It Against Them”).  My friend, Michael Loceff, and I took a trip to LA later that summer just to check out all the locations that Frank listed as Freak Out! hot spots. When we finally reached the hallowed portals of Ben Franks restaurant on Sunset, we felt like we’d become part of a movement — even if it was 10 a.m., and there wasn’t a freak in sight! Years later, I got to hang out with the Mother’s drummer, Jimmy Carl Black. I was tongue-tied and awestruck to be in the presence of this cat whose mystique, for me, was based solely on his portrayal on the inside of album covers. Frank Zappa schooled us in counter-culture history, gave lost teenagers an identity along with a mythology and provided four sides of groundbreaking rock ‘n’ roll for five bucks! Some 44 years later, I’m still a fan — that’s what the music business is about.”

Perhaps now, we’ll start getting schooled again.

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