Industry Spotlight: Flying On The Concord – Ayappa Biddanda
Amidst CMAFest, Bonnaroo, and with Boulder just around the corner, Ayappa Biddanda, Sr. Director, National Roots, Video & Tour Promotion at Concord Music, was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions.
Did you always have your eyes and heart set on working in the music? If not, what brought you to it?
I always had music in my heart, but growing up a first-generation Indian kid in Knoxville, I had no clue you could work in the music industry. I just thought music was something that magically appeared on the radio or on vinyl or in a cassette (that I would occasionally have to spool back in with a pencil).
While at the University of Tennessee, I was part of the Cultural Attractions Committee and the Issues Committee booking artists and speakers from around the globe. That gave me a taste that there was a possibility of providing a stage for world-class talent. Then I had the opportunity to help Peter Stuart (of the band dog’s eye view) sell his CDs & promote his shows as an indie artist. He signed to Vanguard Records and told them about me, which led to me joining the Vanguard Street Team while in San Diego. I moved to LA to pursue a Master’s of Public Policy at UCLA and also ended up interning at Vanguard where I was later offered a job in the Tour Marketing/Street Team department. After a few years, I moved to the Promotion Department under the tutelage of Art Phillips and eventually went on to run the department for Vanguard & Sugar Hill Records. The labels eventually became part of Concord Music where I joined their Promotion Team under the leadership of Jill Weindorf. I’m fortunate to have worked with all the amazing people I have!
What have been some of your most memorable experiences in music? (either personally or professionally)
It’s humbling to admit there are too many to list! Professionally speaking, the first time I heard a song I was working played on the radio (a Peter Stuart song on Indie 103.1 in LA), I pulled over and ran around my car in joy. In fact, each time I’m with a Band/Artist and they hear their new single on the radio for the first time (especially their first single), it’s always extra special. Being at a show and having the entire audience singing along to an Artist’s radio hit is also thrilling because you know there is a personal connection that’s been created.
A few other highlights that spring to mind: booking Matt Nathanson on The Howard Stern Show; booking Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats on The Grand Ole Opry; setting up an album event for Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; coordinating an unprecedented video premiere across MTV Live, MTVU, CMT Music, BET Soul, and BET Centric for Valerie June; being with O.A.R. on Capitol Hill in DC for Arts Advocacy Day alongside Norman Lear and Rep. John Lewis; booking Melissa Etheridge on the Power 106 Morning Show in LA to discuss her tribute to Stax.
Moments where we can showcase Artists to new audiences who embrace their talent—that’s special and something every member of the team works to deliver. Really, every day I’m creating new memories as part of the Concord Music Promotion Team. Each member pours every ounce of his/her energy and talent to serve our artists while also lifting up their team members. Being part of a team that delivers artists their greatest successes to date is a rush every time. What can be better professionally than that?
Personally speaking, I once found myself on-stage in San Diego with my favorite band Counting Crows clapping along to “Hanginaround” during their encore—with Dennis Rodman also on that stage. All sorts of surreal.
Which 5 artists would make up your desert island soundtrack?
– Counting Crows—between their official catalog and the…oh, 150+ live bootlegs of theirs, I’ll have plenty of music to fill the island airwaves.
– Matt Nathanson—with him, I’ve been able to witness first-hand the passion, intensity, and heart that goes into creating albums, and we’ve also shared a lifetime of memories criss-crossing the country breaking his records.
– Indigo Girls—their songwriting and thematic range will give me plenty to feel—and think—about; plus, they’ll inspire me to harmonize with animals on the island.
– Oscar Brown, Jr.—his range of voice and extensive subject matter always challenge me to think about the greater world and how we fit within it.
– Tracy Chapman—the way she balances the political & the personal is awe-inspiring…and her song “The Promise” would be a fitting anthem while being stuck on an island.
What do you feel are the keys to success in the music business? (Related– what keys do you think are “universal” and what are unique to industry?)
A few keys to success across fields: dedication to the respective craft; follow-through; and respectful treatment of all those you encounter. A unique key to success in the music industry would include understanding why a good Tour Manager is so valuable—and ensuring s/he has the information needed to succeed.
Best advice you’ve received, and/or advice you’d share with those seeking to break into the business?
Advice nugget I’ve received: “Whether you think you can or you can’t…you’re right.” Advice I’d share: Love music, work harder than you ever thought you could, and don’t be a jerk.
When you’re not hard at work, what’s your ideal day?
The recent Father’s Day which was my first as a Dad was pretty ideal. I got to hang out with my wife and daughter, who just turned 7 months old. We listened to music, ate some good food, and I tried out some Dad jokes. I’m pretty sure she’ll get the humor when she’s older. Same with the baby.
Greatest challenges faced during your day to day?
Time! Every. Single. Day. A perpetually ever-growing To Do list and yet only 24 hours. That certainly keeps me looking forward to tomorrow!
What has been most rewarding about Concord Music in particular?
I had mentioned the exceptional Promotion Team I’m a part of earlier so that’s one. But also the range & quality of artistry at Concord Music is unmatched. Where else would I have the opportunity to work with artists ranging from Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, St. Vincent, Valerie June, The Record Company, The Revivalists, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness to Marilyn Manson, Ghost, and Underoath to Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Cody Jinks, and I’m With Her to William Bell, Indigo Girls, and Chris Hillman to large portions of the Stax and R.E.M. catalogs to Denzel Curry, Kidz Bop, The Sound Of Music…all while we develop great emerging artists?! I’m still that lucky kid from Knoxville.