“Our story is like music. Actually, our story is music.” Joshua is the General Manager for country/Americana radio station 95.3 KHYI and Kimberly is the Show Marketing Manager for AT&T Performing Arts Center. There is nothing more different than a Texas-born southern gentleman and a California beach girl, but their love for music and working in the industry helped them find one another and start the greatest love story they've ever known. Kimberly grew up in Hermosa Beach, CA and went to college in Boulder, CO. After working for a radio station and booking agency in New York City, she found herself in Texas working in promotions and marketing for the Granada Theater. Then there is Joshua, who was born and raised as a proud Texan, spent time studying in Europe and ended up in Dallas running the radio station The Range. Their backgrounds and upbringing could not have been more different, but almost four years ago, Joshua walked into the Granada office for a lunch with his old friend (and Granada Theater owner) Mike Schoder and it was game over from there. Since their first date, life has been one adventure after another and music has been a constant in their lives.
AHD: Why is music so important in your lives?
KJ: I was raised by a father who grew up in the Hollywood Hills, played in bands and was continuously surrounded by the sounds of The Beach Boys and Elvis. There was always some kind of surf music or rock ‘n‘ roll being played at my house in Hermosa Beach. Growing up, I listened to different musical genres and was always open to something different. Then while working at the Granada, my knowledge expanded even more. I appreciate anything from country to rock to indie to jazz but once I met Joshua and fell in love with the GM of a country/Americana station, my passion grew even more.
JJ: As for me, I grew up around the radio business. My family has been in the business for 50 years. I heard a quote once in an interview and the interviewee’s quote has always resonated with me -- “When I was growing up all my friends loved music. I just loved it a little bit more than they did”. Music has always been my blood and part of who Kim and I are. It was something that quickly bonded us and sometimes even gets us competitive with one another. We respect one another's taste in music and always try to share what is the latest band we have discovered. Kimberly has written down almost every concert we have gone to since we met in 2007 and it is incredible to see where our love of music has taken us. We have seen shows in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, all over Texas, Chicago, New York City, Edinburgh, Scotland and Dublin, Ireland and I am are sure there are more that we are not thinking of. We even scheduled our honeymoon in Europe around seeing The Submarines, Frightened Rabbit and The Mountain Goats shows. Some of our greatest memories are of us at shows, hands down.
AHD: Your story reads like a musical fairy tale. Is it safe to say that music brought the two of you together?
KJ: I would like to say that fate is what brought us together, but it was music that created the perfect backdrop for our story. As stated earlier, we met almost four years ago when Joshua was scheduled to have lunch with his buddy (and Granada Theater owner) Mike Schoder. I was working at the Granada in the marketing and promotions department and Joshua walked in, saw me at my desk and wondered to himself, “Who the heck is that?” Our first conversation was of course in regards to music (SXSW, the Granada and KHYI’s TMR) so it was an easy go-to subject matter. We think you can get to know a ton about someone based off of their passions in life and music happens to be that shared passion of ours. Our love of music quickly turned into a love for one another and our nights are still filled with concerts or radio station events to this day.
AHD: Given your combined experience in music, what’s the single greatest misconception that the average fan has about the industry?
JJ & KJ: That people make money. Whether it’s an artist performing at a packed show, or an on-air personality with a strong audience, there are only a sliver of a small percentage of people making good money in the music business. The fact is, lots of people want to be in this industry so that drives down employees’ leverage to demand more money. Also, radio has been decimated by corporate greed so we rarely recommend that career path to our friends. Furthermore, artists have so much overhead (payroll, travel, marketing, 10 percent to your agent, another 10 percent to your manager, percent off of every cd to your distributor, most of the rest to your label, etc) that there isn’t usually much left over.
AHD: Do you still enjoy listening to a tune on the radio or taking in a show?
JJ & KJ: We both love listening to the radio and going to live shows plays a significant role in both our professional and personal lives. We are admittedly a bit snobbish when it comes to a venue, though, both radio and live performance. One thing we cannot stand is when we see a band or artist perform in a sterile room or a venue where the sound is poor and the view isn’t stellar. Likewise, we do not want to listen to music on the radio that is soulless, generic, overproduced, that is more about “image” rather than content or quality of sound. We have seen bands that are 100 percent better on stage than in a recording and visa versa. For Josh, getting people to listen to the radio is his job and therefore he needs to find the songs that are radio friendly, educate his listeners and highlight those who should be on the public's radar, but for Kimberly it’s more about the performance. When you spend weeks or months promoting a band, do everything you can to get people to buy tickets and then get to experience the thrill and reaction on people's faces in the crowd, the hard work is all worth it. There is nothing like watching people experience their favorite musicians on stage. We all go to concerts for different reasons, but everyone is there to get away from their lives for a couple hours and share in something that they can tell their friends and family about later. For us as a couple, listening to the radio and attending concerts are equally as important for artists as well as music industry professionals.
AHD: Kim, what is the best live show you’ve seen at Granada?
KJ: To try to answer this question is close to impossible because over the past four and a half years, I have seen more amazing concerts than I could ever imagine. One of the most memorable nights of my musical career: a show with Hal Ketchum. A huge storm hit a couple of years ago and the entire block of Greenville Avenue lost electricity. Instead of canceling, my boss decided to continue with the show -- Hal played without a microphone, in a pitch black room with hundreds of candles surrounding the room.
Although these are all incredible moments for me, I have to say, though, that the one band that I will always mention when someone asks me a question like this is The Avett Brothers back in January of 2010. I had seen them open (yes open) for Will Hoge in 2007 with a couple hundred people (at most) in the room and then they headlined later that year. They are the perfect example of what you hope a band accomplishes, especially at a mid-size venue. Each time they came back to the theater, they had gained popularity and eventually outgrew the theater. That is what you want for any band: to continue to grow and evolve. The Avett Brothers continue to pack houses everywhere and yet they stay true to themselves musically and spiritually.
AHD: Joshua, who was the most fun artist to visit the radio station?
JJ: Gosh, this is an interesting question. Maybe Merle Haggard several years ago. Disgusted by today’s “mainstream” country radio, I had sworn off doing radio interviews years earlier. The station was “presenting” a show for him and I wrote a personal letter asking him to swing by when he was in town and hop on the air. To my surprise, he obliged and spent some time with us when he came through. I’m normally not that involved in setting up interviews but felt some conviction to get involved in this particular one. Anyway, “The Hag” was very kind and gracious. I still have a pic we took together that day.
AHD: Kimberly, recently you switched jobs from Granada to the AT&T Performing Arts center – you’ve been in music for years! Can you explain what the greatest challenge with marketing in the music industry is especially in light of the economy?
KJ: Being able to have the opportunity to work at the Granada was a dream come true, but working at a mid-size venue is a challenge. Even though it’s not the biggest room to fill in the metroplex, you are faced with the issue of bringing in bands who might not be able to sell themselves based off of their name. You have to work hard at it. The people who know the bands are going to buy the tickets so they are not the difficult ones to reach. It’s trying to find those other niche oriented groups who may not know about the band and educate them on what they sound like, then get them to buy the tickets! Keeping ticket prices low helps with the state of the economy, but it also has to do with the competition in the area. If there are four indie shows in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in one week, chances are your numbers are going to take a hit.
The same can be said in regards to larger venues such as the AT&T Performing Arts Center. I think in general, people are a bit pickier on what they are spending their money on so it is up to the marketing team to sell the band, the venue and the overall experience. They are able to have big names come to ATTPAC but you are still going to have to teach people about the Dallas Arts District, this downtown revival that the area is going through and make this a go-to destination. Music as a whole is in such a state of transition. You cannot just play a record on the radio or have a writer print a story on a band and expect fans to show up. You have to rely on both traditional and non-traditional media and always try to stay ahead of the game. There is so much competition for bands out there specially now that they have the ability to raise money to put out an album and promote themselves through social networking. It’s the job of the theater to market bands to those tastemakers as well as the niche groups and paint a picture of the experience that they can have at the venue they are playing.
AHD: Joshua, have you seen the role of radio for bands increase or decrease in importance in light of the easy access to music on Spotify, iTunes and Myspace?
JJ: I get asked this question fairly frequently. The radio business has definitely changed dramatically in the last decade and I am sure bands see it differently than they once did. I will say this though: when I started my Master’s Degree years ago I had to take a History of Radio class. I learned that almost everyone (including all the “industry peeps” of that day and age) thought that when the first TV channel (W2XCR in New York) started programming regularly in 1931, that it marked the death of radio. And it almost did. You know what saved radio? The car dashboard. By 1933 there were over 100 thousand cars with radios in them and whatever dude decided to put it there single-handedly saved the radio industry. It’s not that desperate in radio, but we could sure use another “car dashboard moment” in the near future.
AHD: It’s obvious you’ve got a unique perspective on the Dallas music scene. Are you pleased with the city’s participation in the arts?
KJ: I do believe that Dallas has a lot more to offer than most people think. There is a ton of talent in the area and so many bands that aren't even on people's radar. The music scene is small here, though. Everyone knows everyone, but I feel like there is a camaraderie that many other cities do not have. It’s a great place for musicians to work on music and perfect one's craft because it is easier to get noticed compared to an LA, NY or Austin, even. Dallas is really coming around, though with the Dallas Arts District supporters and donors. The city is really in a great position to create an awareness of music and arts as a whole!
JJ: Dallas has a great arts scene, but I think a lot of it is under the radar. I would hate to suggest socializing art, but I love how Canadian radio stations are required by law to play 30 percent Canadian music. (That’s probably a lot of Barenaked Ladiies and Fiona Apple.) Maybe we should have something like that around here.
AHD: What would you like to see Art House Dallas accomplish within the creative community?
JJ & KJ: Just keep doing what you’re doing, but grow your brand even more. Let people know you are here and be a present source. Make Art House Dallas a resourceful tool for local musicians and those interested in the arts. Something sort of Pollstar-ish for all the arts and, specifically for Dallas.
AHD: Do the two of you intend to collaborate at any point?
KJ: Collaborate—when it comes to music, we are each other’s go to person. If I ever need advice or an opinion, he is the first person I would go to with a question about a band. He has my best interest at heart and will always shoot straight with me, which I can appreciate. I think it’s very important to trust the people you surround yourself with personally and professionally and he is the most credible person I know.
AHD: How can we keep up with your work?