Industry Profile: Tom Derr

— By Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Tom Derr is a principal of Rock Ridge Music, an artist development company/label, launched earlier this summer.

He was most recently vice president of marketing/artist development at Universal Records. Prior to his seven-plus year tenure at Universal, Thomas was a director of marketing at The RCA Records Label and, before that, was director of sales and marketing for Noise International Records.

Tom began his music industry career humbly - in the A&M Records mailroom -- a short, but nonetheless eventful stint that included meeting Michael Damian, accidentally insulting Joe Jackson, and hanging out with Extreme -- and many hours spent in malls throughout the greater Philadelphia area in music retail.

Throughout his career, Tom has worked with Dave Matthews Band, 3 Doors Down, the Bee Gees, Sister Hazel, The Verve Pipe, Reel Big Fish, Flaw, Stroke 9, Goldfinger, Tonic, ZZ Top, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Van Morrison, and Robert Plant, among others, in marketing and product management.

Rock Ridge Music saw its first release, The Ike Reilly Assassination's "Sparkle In The Finish," hit stores shelves on October 12. As an artist development company and record label, the company offers its artists a label, artist management (if needed), national distribution, and a place to develop and maintain a solid career in the music business.

"Rock Ridge Music is striving to become the ultimate resource and support structure for both developing artists as well as those artists who became disillusioned with the big business of the record industry," says Tom. "Through management and distribution services, marketing plan consultation and development, and creative financial support, Rock Ridge Music has the resources to develop a music career."

Rock Ridge Music provides its artists with national distribution via ADA through Sixthman. In addition to the Ike Reilly Assassination album, Rock Ridge has also released albums from Love.45 (produced by 3 Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson and Geoff Ott), Domeshots, and Stroke 9. They also have arranged a P&D deal with Raleigh, NC-based Evo Recordings to release the upcoming album from Madside. Love.45, Stroke 9 and Madside will all be released on November 9.

Principals in Rock Ridge Music include: Derr and songwriter/producer Chris Henderson, the guitarist for 3 Doors Down, who has eight years overall experience in the music business.

Why did you start your own label?
First, I look at Rock Ridge Music as more than just a label but as a music services company offering a variety of things that artists would need. I wanted to create a home for artists who wanted to be more hands on with their artistry. To create and then be active in all of the issues in regard to the release of the album. These are the things that I saw and experienced when I was with major labels that disappeared from much of the marketing and creative process.

How is this different from other labels?
We want, and strive, to make the artists we work with to be our partners and not just a commodity...that is how we will make it different.

What is the artist development component of Rock Ridge Music?
Pretty much what I described above, in addition to the patience, time, and expertise to allow artists to develop and grow as opposed to explode and fade away.

What type of artists are you looking to sign?
Bottom line for Rock Ridge has nothing to do with genre but more to do with artists who are willing to work as hard as we work. We look to work with artists who have worked their way to a certain level, and offer to them the support to take the next steps.

So you are not looking for brand new artists?
We are, and have Stroke 9, for example. With these artists we are able to offer a support structure for them for stability and control or the ability to grow back into the market place where they may have lost some of their base.

How big do you envision Rock Ridge Music becoming?
HUGE! Just kidding. We want to succeed of course and will, but success will be based on how we are able to grow the artists we do business with and not solely on cash :) (we will take the cash). We want to be a place where artists feel at home and feel they have the ability and support to succeed.

What kind of tour support does Rock Ridge Music provide its artists?
On the marketing side, we have a small and growing street team who are working hard to create tour awareness and are working closely with each artist's own team of fans who support the touring; as for funding a tour, that's all about realistic spends for the right touring opportunity; and as for advertising, we're on top of this visibility working closely with the ADA staff to make sure we're covered.

What are your feelings about downloading off the Internet?
We're fully supportive of this activity, whether it be "legal" through digital download partners or it be thru sharing online with hard core and tastemaker music fans. It seems those most afraid of sharing among fans are those who only have 1 song to promote as opposed to promoting a quality 10-11 song album.

How do you and your partner Chris break down the company's responsibilities?
Rock Ridge is a collection of very special people besides myself and Chris (some silent and some not so silent), and this collection of people don't necessarily share duties but more of a focus of duties based on what everyone's background and expertise brings to the table.

I'm the day-to-day operations person (and soon to add our first staff member). Others bring production skills, music/songwriting skills, legal backgrounds, finance backgrounds, schmooze appeal, and much more. We all work to our strengths for the good of both the company and each of our partner artists. Additionally, we all feed off one another's expertise and learn as we go!

First concert attended
Aerosmith, 1977, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.

First industry job
Clerk in a record store selling 8 tracks and paraphernalia.

Career highlights
Working with the Dave Matthews Band in marketing and product management; working on the last Bee Gees studio CD, with all three rothers; promotion to VP of marketing and artist development at Universal Records.

Career disappointment
Failure of "un-named" bands who didn't break through even after tons of hard work.

Greatest challenge
My new job, running my own company with some great partners and breaking through the muck of the business to bring consumers good music.

Best business decision
To leave the record business corporate life and head out on my own--great for biz life and family life.

Best advice you received
Don't burn a bridge, ever.

Best advice to offer
Stick with what your gut tells you to do.

Most memorable industry experience
Cell phone call from Robert Plant while commuting on the train into NYC.

What friends would be surprised to learn about you
I like mowing my lawn.

Industry pet peeve
Jaded people.

Office paraphernalia
Famliy photos, football, blackberry, hockey items, scotch.

If I weren't doing this, I would be...
...trying to play football.

Industry mentors
Terry Ellis, Tom Corson, Mel Lewinter.

Tom can be reached at (215) 493-0996; e-mail: tom@rockridgemusic.com

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Ben Miller, Rock Ridge Music 11/02/07
J. B. Miller, Empire Entertainment 08/22/08
Richard Mills, S.L. Feldman 11/02/09
Linda Moran, Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) 04/05/09
Jesse Morreale, Nobody In Particular Presents (NIPP) 09/20/02
Chuck Morris, Live Rocky Mountains 09/28/09
Mo Morrison, Independent production 05/24/02
Nick Moss, Blue Bella Records 11/30/07
Jim Musselman, Appleseed Recordings 04/14/06
Marc Nathan, Flagship Records 07/01/05
David Neilon, Rising Star Promotions 11/30/01
Don Neuen, Star Coaches Inc. 10/10/12
Dennis Newhall, DIG Music 10/07/05
John Nittolo, John Nittolo Productions 04/13/07
Ian Noble, Metropolitan Talent 05/23/03
Josh Norek, JN Media, LLC 07/05/02
David Norman, Tour Manager 04/20/07
Mimi Northcott, Canadian Recording Services (CRS) 04/11/08
Bill Nowlin, Rounder Records 01/05/07
John Nugent, NY JAM Inc. 11/08/02
Andy Nulman, Just For Laughs 11/20/13
Sal Nunziato, NYCD 06/01/01
Bob O'Neal, Ryman Auditorium 06/28/02
Andrea Orbeck, Prehab Health and Fitness 03/15/10
Heather Orser, Toad's Place 01/29/01
Janet Oseroff, MultiMediaProperties 11/18/05
Marc Ostrow, Boosey & Hawkes 12/05/08
Riley O’Connor, Live Nation Canada 07/24/09
Jeremy Palmer, Buddy Lee Attractions 11/02/01
John Palmer, Megawave Records 08/31/07
Panos Panay, Sonicbids 12/23/05
Julien Paquin, Paquin Artists Agency 04/30/14
Crispin Parry, British Underground 02/24/08
Donald Passman, Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown 04/09/10
Bruce Patron, Overland Entertainment 07/28/06
Alexandra Patsavas, Chop Shop Music 09/27/11
Cheryl Pawelski, Omnivore Entertainment Group 09/26/13
Kerry Peace, Alligator Records 08/18/06
Eric Peltoniemi, Red House Records 12/14/09
Scott Perry, Sperry Media 03/11/05
Lawrence Peryer, Jr., 23 Omnimedia 11/07/08
John Peters, MassConcerts 06/07/11
Holger Petersen, Stony Plain Records 04/15/05
Jon Phillips, Silverback Professional Artist Mgmt/Controlled Substance Sound 08/29/08
Vince Pileggi, Music Inc./Music Inc. Sounds 12/01/06
Eric Pirritt, Endit! Presents / The Fox Theatre 10/17/03
Neil Portnow, The Recording Academy 02/08/11
Louis Posen, Hopeless Records 04/04/11
Stephen Posen, Estate of Glenn Gould 01/23/13
Nadia Prescher, Madison House 06/20/03
Jeff Price, TuneCore 02/28/11
Tom Principato, Powerhouse Records 02/01/08
Roger Probert, Core Records 12/08/06
John "Grinder" Procaccini, JP Squared (JP2) 01/17/03
Mark Pucci, Independent Music Publicist 09/09/05
David Pullman, The Pullman Group 11/03/00
Rod Quinton, Saigon Sound System 04/18/11
Dolphus Ramseur, Ramseur Records 10/19/07
Jack Randall, Ted Kurland Associates 04/05/02
Debra Rathwell, AEG Live 05/03/13
Jeff Ravitz, Visual Terrain 02/08/08
Rich Rees, M.P.I. Talent Agency 09/19/08
John Reese, Freeze Artist Management 08/01/08
Bill Reeves, WRIII, Inc. 10/20/06
Stephen Rehage, Rehage Entertainment 07/30/04
Lisa Reiss, Pearl Productions 08/17/07
Salaam Remi, Composer, producer, musician and label executive. 01/08/14
David Renzer, Universal Music Publishing Group 08/23/09
Alison Richard, Universal Orlando Resort 05/06/05
Kelli Richards, The All Access Group 02/07/12
Gary Richards, HARD Events 08/29/13
Sam Righi, Waterfront Entertainment Group 05/30/03
Jon Rinaldo, Joker Productions 01/02/04
Geary Rindels, Geary Rindels Enterprises, Inc. 12/05/03
Doreen Ringer Ross, BMI 01/18/08
Lisette Rioux, Island Def Jam Music Group 05/16/03
Dave Roberge, Everfine Records & Everfine Artist Management 12/03/04
Sandy Roberton, Worlds End Producer Management 02/20/09
Ty Roberts, Gracenote 01/31/12
Bill Rogers, BRE Presents 07/13/07
Ian Rogers, Topspin Media 06/01/10
Benji Rogers, PledgeMusic 12/19/13
Dave Rose, Deep South Entertainment 09/15/06
Eric Rosen, Ronald S. Bienstock & Associates 05/25/01
Stuart Ross, The Ross Group 02/23/01
David Ross, President IAAM; Director, Show Me Center 09/23/05
Bobby Rossi, Ruth Eckerd Hall 02/28/03
Michael Rothschild, Landslide Records 04/29/05
Robert Rowland, Red Entertainment 06/13/08
Bill Royston, Mt. Hood Jazz Festival 03/07/03
John Rudolph, Bug Music 05/24/10
Elizabeth Rush, E.R.A. / Elizabeth Rush Agency 08/20/04
Aran Rush, Expo and Foro Imperial 02/16/07
Maurice Russell, Harry Fox Agency 10/21/05
Barron Ruth, Skyline Music 02/14/03
Andrea Sabata, Skyline Music 01/07/05
Numa Saisselin, Count Basie Theatre, Inc. 02/04/05
Ron Sakamoto, Gold & Gold Productions 01/16/10
David Salidor, dis Company 07/20/07
Shaw Saltzberg, S. L. Feldman and Associates 06/21/10
Bruce Allen & Sam Feldman, A&F Music 12/19/08
Mark Samuels, Basin Street Records 06/11/04
Tamara Saviano, American Roots Publishing 07/22/05
Michael Scafuto, Mountain High Entertainment 12/07/01
Steve Schankman, Contemporary Productions 12/21/01
Steve Scharf, Carlin America 10/11/02
John Scher, Metropolitan Talent 11/21/08
Al Schmitt, Producer/Engineer 02/13/10
Bobby Schneider, Tour Coordinator, Third Eye Blind 01/31/03
Jake Schneider, Madison House 04/02/14
Steven Schnur, EA Music Group 07/03/13
Elaine Schock, Shock Ink 02/19/10
Stacy Schott, Mad Booking and Events 08/22/03
Daylle Schwartz, Revenge Productions 08/19/05
Dean Sciarra, ItsAboutMusic.com 11/26/04
Jay Sendyk, Sendyk, Leonard & Company, Inc. 05/03/02
Peter Shapiro, Ideal Entertainment 04/16/04
Seth Sheck, Access Pass & Design 01/03/03
Jay Sieleman, The Blues Foundation 07/18/03
Anya Siglin, The Ark 03/05/10
Bill Silva, Bill Silva Entertainment 10/19/10
Tom Silverman, Tommy Boy Entertainment 03/06/12
Steve Simon, Clear Channel Communications 05/14/04
Ralph Simon, Live Earth 07/06/07
Ralph Simon, Mobilium 04/12/11
Michael Simon, The Harry Fox Agency 08/14/13
Ron Simpson, RCS Productions 01/11/08
John Simson, SoundExchange 07/15/05
Dion Singer, Warner Bros. 12/07/09
Gram Slaton, The Community Arts Center 02/25/05
Owen Sloane, Gladstone Michel Weisberg Willner & Sloane 10/11/10
Peter Smidt, Eurosonic Noorderslag & manager Buma Cultuur 07/17/13
Mike Snider, Paradigm Talent Agency Nashville 05/17/11
Andrew Snowhite, Musictoday 05/04/01
Bruce Solar, The Agency Group 05/14/14
Michael Solomon, Brick Wall Management 05/25/07
Mark Sonder, Mark Sonder Productions 07/25/08
Steve Sonnier, UIC Pavilion at the University of Illinois, Chicago 09/03/04
Kathy Spanberger, peermusic 06/20/12
Carolyn Specht, CIE USA Entertainment Inc. and OCESA PRESENTS Inc. 03/26/04
David Spelman, New York Guitar Festival 10/01/04
Jason Spiewak, Rock Ridge Music 04/07/06
Dan Steinberg, Square Peg Concerts 11/29/12
Dan Steinberg, Square Peg Concerts 02/18/05
Jeremy Stephan, Ventures, LLC 04/23/04
Walter Stewart, Mars Talent Agency 02/21/03
Gail Stocker, Gail Stocker Presents 11/12/04
Jon Stoll, Fantasma Productions 10/13/00
Jesse Stoll, AEG 06/27/09
Henry Stone, Henry Stone Music 06/24/05
Jason Stone, Live Nation New York 03/31/06
Howard Stovall, Resource Entertainment Group 05/28/04
Cameron Strang, New West Records 10/18/02
Don Strasburg, AEG Live Rocky Mountains 02/27/09
Barbara Strauss, Sovereign Ventures 05/12/06
Richard Stumpf, Cherry Lane Publishing 08/07/06
Patrick Sullivan, RightsFlow 10/25/11
Bernie Swain & Harry Rhodes, Jr., Washington Speakers Bureau 12/07/00
Dean Swett, Paramour Group 06/14/02
Jake Szufnarowski, Rocks Off 05/02/08
Marc Tanner, Chime Entertainment 12/22/06
Donald Tarlton, The Donald K Donald Group 04/12/02
Tess Taylor, Los Angeles Music Network 08/09/02
Race Taylor, WPLJ - New York 10/27/06
Race Taylor, WPLJ - New York 10/27/06
Chris Taylor, Taylor 03/15/09
Peter Tempkins, DeWitt Stern Group 03/16/01
Peter Tempkins, Momentous Insurance Brokerage 03/27/09
Lisa Tenner, Tenner & Associates (EAT'M) 08/06/01
Jeremy Tepper, Diesel Only Records 10/10/03
Allan Tepper, Bicycle Music Company 09/28/07
Martin Terefe, Kensaltown Studios 05/31/11
Milun Tesovic, MetroLeap Media 10/18/09
Jerry Thompson, Promoter Line Inc. 03/05/04
Jose Tillan, MTV Networks Latin America 12/02/05
Jon Tiven, Hormone Studios 08/05/05
John "J.T." Toomey, 25/8 Management 11/15/11
Livia Tortella, Warner Bros. Records 01/10/12
Phil Tripp, IMMEDIA! 01/19/06
Claudio Trotta, Barley Arts Promotion 11/26/01
Chris Tsakalakis, StubHub 01/11/10
Ben Turner, Graphite Media 05/10/10
Steve Vai, Favored Nations Entertainment 04/26/02
John Valentino, Fantasma Productions 04/18/03
John Valentino, AEG Live SE 11/01/10
Don Van Cleave, Coalition of Independent Music Stores 04/09/04
Casey Verbeck, Partners in Music 06/06/03
David "Boche" Viecelli, The Billions Corporation 04/18/10
Ray Waddell, Billboard Magazine 08/27/04
Rob Waggener, Foundations Recovery Network 03/07/11
Jim Walczak, Racine Civic Centre 06/03/05
Jeff Walker, The AristoMedia Group 08/16/10
Carla Wallace, Big Yellow Dog Music 11/04/05
Russell Wallach, Live Nation Network 03/20/12
Steve Walter, The Cutting Room 10/24/08
Neil Warnock, The Agency Group 05/02/09
Diane Warren, Realsongs 08/14/09
Butch Waugh, RCA Label Group Nashville 01/10/03
Lauren Wayne, The State Theatre 05/09/12
Ken Weinstein, Big Hassle Media 04/22/05
Bruce Weinstein, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts 02/15/08
Larry Weintraub, Fanscape 05/18/01
Pam Weiser, Momentous Insurance Brokerage 10/11/11
Kevin Welk, Welk Music Group 01/24/12
D-J Wendt, Dmand Management 05/09/08
Alison Wenham, Worldwide Independent Network 02/13/09
Bill Werde, Billboard 08/03/11
Joel Whitburn, Record Research 11/13/09
Judd White, Tour Manager/Accountant 02/13/04
Jeff White, In Ticketing 12/16/06
Fenton Williams, 04/04/08
Del Williams, Right Arm Entertainment 04/18/08
Bryan "Birdman" Williams, Cash Money Records 09/13/11
Paul Williams, ASCAP 10/19/11
J.P. Williams, Parallel Entertainment 10/03/12
Kurt Willms, Green Room Productions 09/20/03
Chris Wilson, Heartbeat Records 03/02/07
Tony Wilson, Factory Records/In The City 06/01/07
Tom Windish, The Windish Agency 07/26/10
John Wiseman, XL Touring Video 05/05/06
Thom Wolke, Twincloud.com 02/08/02
Michael Wood, City Lights Entertainment 08/08/08
Nigel Wright, Independant Record Producer 11/07/03
Dusty Wright, CultureCatch.com 07/27/07
Jeremiah “Ice” Younossi, A-List Talent 09/20/09
Ron Zeelens, RAZco Visas 04/20/01
Rick Zeiler, Sidney Frank Importing Company 06/04/04
Danny Zelisko, Live Nation 06/19/09
Hillary Zuckerberg, Brick Wall Management. 07/09/04
Steve Zuckerman, Global Entertainment and Media Summit 03/22/02
Paul Zullo, Muze 01/23/04
Nanette Zumwalt, Hired Power 02/03/06

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