This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Bryan Coleman, partner, Union Entertainment Group.
Manager Bryan Coleman is justly proud that Nickelback is a blue-collar rock and roll band that still sells a lot of records; has SRO shows wherever it plays; and doesn’t give a damn about its critics.
Nor does he.
Nickelback has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, and the band's last five albums debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard 200.
Nickelback delivered its 7th studio album “Here and Now” on Nov. 21, 2011. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 200.
Under Coleman’s watchful eye, Nickelback will spend the next two years on the road supporting that record.
Prior to the release of "Here and Now,” the band was named the #1 musical turn-off in a poll conducted by Tastebuds.fm, and even found itself the target of an online petition seeking to have it removed from a half-time performance at the Detroit Lions' annual Thanksgiving football game.
Launched by a Michigan music fan, the online petition drew more than 40,000 signatures.
Nickelback, of course, played the Thanksgiving Day game anyway to a boisterous reception.
Booked by Steve Kaul at the Agency Group, the band will play North America from April through July; followed by European dates; and then do dates in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and S.W. Asia before the year’s end.
Dates in South America and South Africa are penciled in for 2013 along with further touring in North America, and Europe.
Meanwhile, Coleman will be choosing Nickelback's future recording home. The band signed a 360 deal with Live Nation in 2008, and "Here and Now" is their final studio album under its deal with Roadrunner Records.
Founded in 1987 by Tim Heyne (joined by partners John Greenberg in 1989, and Coleman in 1991) Union Entertainment Group handles Cinderella, Pillar, George Lynch, Red, Hinder, Daniel Powter and others.
Union Entertainment Group doesn’t have a centralized office. Its 20 employees work wherever they live. As a result, the company has outposts in Midland, and Houston Texas; Sarasota, Florida; Seattle; Amsterdam; Vancouver; New York City; Nashville with a staff of 4-5 people; and two offices in Los Angeles.
Based in Midland, Texas with three staff members, Coleman’s own client list consists of Nickelback, as well as Kevin Costner and Modern West, Default, Oleander, and Candlebox.
Nickelback can split a room between Nickelback fans and Nickelback haters. What is it about the band that people hate?
I don’t think it’s the band, particularly. I think that it’s just (being in) the mainstream. There are always people who are anti-mainstream. Nickelback is--I guess--the label of mainstream. This happened in the ‘90s too, but there was a big music movement that fought against it (mainstream music). That was grunge. Right now, there is not a big music movement. In fact, rock and roll really doesn’t have a lot of prominence, right now. In fact, Nickelback is probably the one beacon in the whole sphere of rock. There are a few others, like the Foo Fighters that are also doing great, but there aren’t many.
The disdain they attract comes mostly with the territory?
It does. Somebody has to carry that. Unfortunately, that is just the truth. Led Zeppelin carried it. They had horrible media. Van Halen did it. Def Leppard did it. AC/DC did it. And the same thing happened to Kid Rock too. He was tossed out of many venues. The list just goes on and on. It’s their time and their place right now. It is not going to be their legacy. It’s not. The band is going to be around for a long time, and there will be somebody else for people to hate on.
It (the criticism) is also being exploited because it’s on the internet. If there was no internet, you wouldn’t be hearing about it. But because people have a conduit to release their aggression, they are doing it online, and people are seeing it. That’s why it’s become so well-known.
The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney provided Nickelback with a media gift with his recent outburst.
Ah jeez. It’s funny because the Black Keys are an act that the guys love, and I love them too. I think their videos are great, and their music is great too. Sometimes artists just want opportunities to get a little extra press. It happened to be one of those times, and it happened to be a moment when it was popular to bang on Nickelback. Okay.
[After The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney told Rolling Stone that “rock ‘n’ roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world,” Nickelback sent out a tweet saying, “Thanks to the drummer in the Black Keys calling us the Biggest Band in the World in Rolling Stone. Hehe.”]
It may also have been Patrick’s true feelings. But there’s no question it was a media gift to Nickelback. C’mon.
Yeah. It was pretty easy. It was a soft ball. It was a lob.
In 2008, Nickelback did a 360 deal with Live Nation. Was the band also being pursued by EMI, Warner, and Sony?
No. We were in discussions with Warner (the parent company of Nickelback’s longtime label Roadrunner Records) to extend our current deal. Needless to say (discussions) broke down. We went to Live Nation with the idea of a partnership, and they loved it. They were already doing similar things with Madonna and looking at doing a deal with Shakira. So we went to them and we had an idea of what we wanted to do. I talked with Michael Rapino (pres./CEO of Live Nation) and Jason Garner (head of the company's Global Music division who had left the company in 2010). We came to do a deal really quickly. It’s been a great partnership ever since.
With Warner, were you looking at securing ownership of Nickelback’s catalog?
I think that is every artist’s dream, right?
Not going to happen, pal. Once recordings are in a label’s holdings, it’s hard to pry them out.
Yeah, even artists who say they have it (reversion rights) don’t really have it.
The label then holds the right to distribute the catalog in perpetuity.
[In 2008, Nickelback signed a three-album/three tour deal with Live Nation estimated to be worth between $50-$70 million. The band had two studio albums left on its Roadrunner Records contract.
Nickelback’s 2005 album “All the Right Reasons” had sold 10 million units worldwide, and had spent 110 consecutive weeks in the Top 30 of the Billboard 200 album chart. The album--buoyed by seven multi-format hit singles--fell off Billboard’s album after a 156-week run, the longest run by an act registered in 11 years.
Under the new deal, Live Nation acquired 12 separate artist rights to feed its global distribution pipe. These include touring, tour sponsorship, tour merchandise, tour VIP/travel packages, secondary ticketing, recorded music, clothing, licensing and other retail merchandise, non-tour sponsorship and endorsements, DVD and broadcast rights, fan club, web site and literary rights.
Nickelback joined Madonna, Jay-Z, and Shakira in Live Nation’s stable of artists with long-term, comprehensive deal packages. U2 has a deal that includes many of the same features, but does not include its recordings.]
Nickelback’s final studio album for Roadrunner is “Here and Now.” Presumably there is greatest hits and, maybe, a live album?
Yeah, I totally anticipate greatest hits. I don’t know if we will do a live album or not.
Live Nation will probably third party the rights to a label. Might that lead to Nickelback staying with Roadrunner for distribution?
It absolutely could happen. Yeah, we fulfilled the last contract. We have a little time. We probably have a (album/touring) cycle. That will be a couple of years, if history dictates. So we have a couple of years to figure it out. Who knows who is going to buy who? Who is going to be where? Who’s going to be distributing music? How music is going to be distributed. It can change tomorrow. A year from now it (the recording business) could be very, very different.
The Live Nation deal is very fluid.
They are our partners. So what we will do is check the landscape, and we will find the right partner to distribute the music, and Live Nation is our partner in all things Nickelback. We deal with (Michael) Rapino and Steve Herman (president of artist services at Live Nation) now.
[It was Michael Rapino and Steve Herman, while at Core Audience Entertainment in Canada, who gave Nickelback one of its earliest major breaks as an opening act with Creed and Oleander at The Docks in Toronto in Oct. 1999.]
Promoter Louis Messina has publicly expressed his disappointment in losing Nickelback. How difficult was it telling Louis that Nickelback was leaving him for Live Nation?
It was tough. He understood. He understood where we were at, and what we were being offered. He understood. But it was tough because he was a big part of it (the success). Louis and I are friends to this day. It was a friendship then; and it has continued on. He got it. He understood.
[Up until its deal with Live Nation, Nickelback’s American dates had been primarily promoted by Louis Messina, the founder/principal of The Messina Group/AEG Live in Houston. “Look at Nickelback,” he told CelebrityAccess in 2010. “Here’s a band that didn’t sell a lot of tickets. I got involved and then they had a huge record (“All the Right Reasons” in 2005). They are talented and were ready to explode but, maybe, I had the foresight to see they were ready to explode. Everybody else thought, “Nickelback? That band can’t sell tickets.” We sold out across the country. Not once but twice. Then, when it was all said and done, the other guy (Live Nation) wrote them a big old check.”]
Marketing of “Here and Now” has been a mix of traditional and social media marketing. Was this the first time you’ve utilized a double single-strategy?
It is. It is one of the things that we had wanted to do in the past. It just hadn’t happened the way that we had wanted it to. This time the opportunity was there, and it was very distinct. We felt like that we had a song ("When We Stand Together”) that was very pop ready (for radio); and we felt that we had a song ("Bottoms Up”) that we could service to rock fans as well. Fortunately, the cycles are different with rock and with pop as far as how long the songs last (on radio) So we started off this time at the same time; and so we serviced them both. We felt like it (the strategy) was successful.
How do you view this business today with all of the changes in touring, recording and music publishing? As a manager, you have to be a master of so many worlds now.
I think that has always been the case. For me. anyway. I’m in there with all of them (the different sectors of the music business) anyway. It is just that the dollars and cents are less from one side (recording); but we try to make it up from the others. It’s the same for all bands. In Nickelback’s case, if we can get people to come to the show, buy a shirt, and have good time, they are going to want to come back.
Why put music tracks on Spotify or iTunes when there’s so little revenue trickling down to artists?
It really is true. Spotify, specifically, we chose to put the new album up on as release. We did that because they were giving us a lot of promotion in return, and it really helped us overseas. We are having our best release in several cycles. In Scandinavia, it helped us immensely, and in some of the Eastern European markets, it has helped us immensely. So, it was not just about helping us here (in North America). Yes, it was about helping us here; getting us an awareness of the album; and awareness for the tour now. That’s great--but it really helped us internationally.
The band kicks of its North American tour April 10 in Moline, Illinois with openers Bush, Seether and My Darkest Days. The tour was slated to end in Vancouver on June 26th but I understand that dates are now being extended.
We are extending the North American run a bit through to July. Right now, it’s to June but we are going to announce more dates pretty soon. That will take us through July and then we are going to do Europe in September and October and then we will hit up Australia, S.E. Asia, and Japan.
Why do Europe later in the cycle? Many acts jump over there first, return to North America, and then go back again.
We are letting the record build there. It is so far out that we will be on sell here in a couple of weeks for September dates. We wanted to be far enough out. We wanted to build there like we do in the States. We want it (the album) to resonate--get a couple of singles out, and then tour the world. This really builds into not just our 2012 plan, but our 2013 plan as well because we will come back and do the festivals (in Europe) in 2013; and do another North America run as well. It just fits into the full plan; and not just for one year in 2012. It is a two year plus plan.
The UK resisted Nickelback for several years until the band was triumphant there last time around. What brought about the turnaround?
That’s not necessarily true. “How You Remind Me” was huge in the Europe. In the England to this day, it (“Silver Side Up” in 2001) is the band’s biggest album.
[According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), over two million units of “Silver Side Up” were sold in Europe. The album sold eight million copies worldwide in 2002. The album has since sold another 2 million units globally.]
Nevertheless, Nickelback had difficulty touring the UK as a major headlining act for several years.
Let’s put it this way. We were at the arena level, and then we were not at the arena level for a few albums. Then “Rockstar” happened which was late in the (album release/touring) cycle. “Rockstar” hit, and it hit in a big way. We ran a campaign that just clicked with people, and “Rockstar” took off. I really put the band back to arenas there. Even without new releases, we went back and did multiples (tours) multiple times in the UK. With the last album (“Dark Horse”) it was kind of off the success of that. We continued to do arenas, and we will come back and do arenas there again.
[The real surprise from Nickelback’s fifth studio album "All the Right Reasons" in 2005 had been its final single "Rockstar" which reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after being reserviced to U.S. radio.
In the UK, "All the Right Reasons" opened its chart run at #13 before quickly leaving the Top 75 while the single "Savin' Me" failed to chart. However, in early 2008, the album surged onto the UK chart again as "Rockstar" became Nickelback's highest charting single ever in the UK. It peaked at #2. The song was released in physical form there after becoming popular online. "All the Right Reasons” also peaked at #2.]
Many American bands have not broken in the UK or Europe. What does it take to have a consistency in those markets? Being there more and doing numerous media tours?
It takes all that. It probably takes a little bit more because you are not there on a daily basis. It’s easy to hop on over to Las Vegas and do a TV show or down to L.A. to do Leno, wherever it is. And it’s expensive going there. We take the same production from North America to Europe. It’s a big show. It costs more to tour over there. You don’t make as much money. So a lot of artists ask, “Is it worth it for me to go to Europe or should I make my money here, and not have to spend the time over there?”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers haven’t played a major date in the UK in 20 years. The U.K. was one of the last markets to embrace Bruce Springsteen.
I’m not surprised. It certainly is a different market. They are very proud of their artists as well. We sort of embrace them and I think that they are a little bit more apprehensive about embracing American artists for whatever reasons.
[It has been announced that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have a headline slot at the Isle Of Wight Festival on June 22, 2012. The band will also play shows in Dublin, Cork and London.]
It’s (the UK has) become more and more hit-based, but now the catalog can carry the band. We will hopefully have more hits to come even though they aren’t playing anything with guitar on most radio over there. Most radio is beat-based and has hardly any guitar at all. We hope to have play again there but right now really we’re hoping to tour on the catalog. We will go over there and work. The guys went over and promoted the new album (with interviews). They went over and they worked hard--did their due diligence over there just like they did here.
You could do a remix for UK radio.
We already did that. DJ Reggie did a remix on “Lullaby” which is our new single. So we put a beat on it, and there you go.
How about a South American tour for Nickelback in 2013?
Absolutely, South America in 2013. We have so many fans there. Honestly our Facebook and Twitter lights up from South America begging us to come down. We have had a couple of opportunities and the timing just hasn’t worked right. It’s a huge priority for us to get to South America and South Africa as well.
Surely, Nickelback has played in Mexico.
No. We will do Mexico as well. We will do Mexico City. But really, it is about getting to Brazil.
Artists like Sting and Bryan Adams broke in South America with Spanish versions of their hits.
With the internet these days, and with English being the dominant language, it all helps us. When we do go to other countries which don’t speak English, they are singing their songs.
Would you consider having Nickelback go to China?
Absolutely. We are going to get to China too. China is tougher than most (territories) but there are arenas there, and there are rock fans there. So we will get there.
A 39-date leg of the Nickelback tour will end in Vancouver. Then the tour continues with a different size production?
Well, the April to June run is indoors and our production is...as you know the band puts on a big show. This is more than three times bigger than anything that we have ever done. This is huge. Multiple stages; double the pyro; double the lights. A very cool show. Seriously. It’s big. Chad (Kroeger) designed it. We brought in set designers and stuff but this is Chad’s concept. He dreamed pretty big, and this is his baby.
Will it be the same show internationally or will it be stripped down?
It depends. We are discussing that now. Australia, for sure we are taking it. It is just a matter of getting it over there.
Nickelback has played Japan over the years. They did Summer Sonic in 2010. It’s very expensive for any foreign artist to perform in Japan.
It is. We’ve gone there. We’ve scaled down, and gone in there with barebones shows, and it’s been some of the band’s best shows. We played two nights at Studio Coast (Studio Coast live music venue in Tokyo) which has a 3,000 capacity. I wasn’t able to go because I was sick but the band called me after the first show and said, “That was our best show ever. The crowd was great. We are shooting tomorrow.” We had brought in a film crew, and they shot the next night because it was so great. The crowd loved them, and they loved the crowd. It was one of their best shows.
Was it Ron Burman (sr. VP of A&R at Roadrunner Records) who called you about Nickelback in 1999?
It sure was. He called me and said, “We’ve got this band that we are signing and they are a rock band and we want to break them like you broke Oleander.” But Oleander is rock. I said, “Ron you guys are a death metal label. What are you talking about?” But I also then said, “Send it. Who knows?” So he sent it and I was like, “This is great. When are they playing?” They happened to be playing the next weekend (in Vancouver). So I flew up and saw them (at the Vancouver Indy Cart Race).
[Nickelback's first incarnation played covers in its native Canada, and featured a different lineup. After it disbanded, Chad Kroeger began composing songs. He then went into a Vancouver studio with guitarist Ryan Peake, his cousin, drummer Brandon Kroeger (replaced by Ryan Vikedal prior to making “The State” followed by Daniel Adair in 2005), and his older brother, bassist Mike Kroeger to record the EP “Hesher” which received some airplay on Vancouver rock station CFOX.
The band's original label signing was with EMI Music Canada which held Canadian distribution rights to the band’s recordings until “Here and Now” when the band signed with Universal Music Canada for its home territory.
In 1996, Nickelback recorded its album, “Curb” and toured for the next two years, all the while becoming increasingly disillusioned with its management. In the middle of recording “The State,” Nickelback fired its management, and handled all business matters directly themselves.
Roadrunner Records signed Nickelback in 1999, and released "The State" as part of a strategy to push the metal-based company into the mainstream rock market.]
By the time Nickelback members had met you, they had fired their management because they felt they had been getting screwed.
They were. They were reluctant (to do other management deals). When they met me I think that they got that I am an honest, trust-worthy person. That came first. Then they talked to Oleander after doing some shows with Creed and Oleander and got some insights into me, and they realized that I was what they needed. It’s been a great relationship ever since.
Prior to “The State” being released in America, Nickelback’s biggest supporter had been Ralph James, president, The Agency Group in Toronto. He had them opening shows for Big Sugar, the Headstones, 54:40, and Wide Mouth Mason until they became a headliner themselves.
Yep, and Ralph has been a huge part--a big component--of the band as well since.
What appealed to you about the band? The fact that they had the label connection in place?
No. Because at the time it was Roadrunner. I knew that it would be tough with them (breaking the mainstream while on a metal label). The good thing was that when I went to meet with Roadrunner, I saw that it was more than them just trying to put out a Coal Chamber record. They were really dedicated; Ron, (Roadrunner senior VP of promotion) and Dave Loncao who is a well-respected radio guy. At the time, Derek Shulman was the president of the company. They were really trying to make the label more than it was.
I recall Ron Burman being so committed to Nickelback in those days.
He absolutely was. That commitment was there, and I just heard the songs, and when I met the guys I thought that they were just great; and that they were great live. I loved their dedication. And they are smart guys. I don’t want to work with bands that don’t get it. I like having artists that I can talk to, and we can discuss things in detail of how we want to move forward, and how we can strategize on how we market the band,and how we move forward.
After signing with you, Nickelback toured the U.S. with 3 Doors Down, and Sevendust and headlined smaller venues.
Oh yeah. They just wanted to play. They wanted to go to every (radio) station and I wanted them to meet every PD and shake their hand, and to play acoustically, if they could. Do whatever they could to show the smiles on their faces so people would remember them the next time. The guys did 190 shows the first year (we were working together). They were right into the studio the next day. They just wanted to work.
Nickelback has had a wonderful working relationship with Steve Kaul of The Agency in New York. Obviously, it’s a team effort still.
It is. Steve has been a key part of the band’s success as well, especially live. Steve is a huge part of it. Nowadays Brad Russo, who runs our touring (at UEG), ends up talking to Steve more than I do. Steve and I don’t talk 50 times a day anymore. We talk a couple of times a week. It’s like, “Missed you. How have you been the last couple of days?”
Being based in Midland, Texas with UEG, you couldn’t get any closer in scenery and values than being in Hanna, Alberta could you?
Honestly. When we shot the “Photograph” video, we shot it in Hanna. It was the first time I had been to where the guys had grown up. I felt that I was in west Texas. There is hardly any difference. There’s more mountains there; and it’s flat here; but it is very, very similar. Oil and deserty. We obviously don’t get as cold as they do, but it’s very similar. Similar people. It was pretty similar. Scarily similar.
[The song “Photograph” was a sentimental look at Nickelback's roots, thus the return home to shoot a video of the song in this prairie town 215 kilometers northeast of Calgary.]
Midland is a small town. It’s 250,000 people in Midland and Odessa. It’s two cities, really.
It’s the hometown of former First Lady, Laura Bush, and the onetime home of former President George H.W. Bush.
I know that. There’s signs about that everywhere. George (George W. Bush) lived here and grew up here, and went to high school here. Obviously, they like to advertise that. My wife is from here. I’m from L.A. originally. We started having kids, and we moved here in 1999. At the time, it was the right opportunity for the family. I said then that as long as I have a fax machine, I can work anywhere. I don’t even have a fax machine anymore. But with email and cell phones, I can work from anywhere.
Does Midland still have oil derricks?
Oh yeah. I think that I am the only person in town not in the oil business. When you fly out of here, you start seeing oil derricks 10 minutes flying time. Hundreds of miles of pump jacks. Pump jacks everywhere. A third of the U.S. domestic oil comes from here.
You grew up in L.A.
I grew up in Simi Valley, and lived in San Fernando Valley. Laurel Canyon is in the San Fernando Valley.
One of your jobs early on was laying tile. Were you any good?
Oooh no. I was terrible at it. I tried hard. It just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I was going to Cal State North (majoring in Radio TV Film), and it (the job) was just helping me get through school.
Who was the artist manager you did some work for and met Tom Petty and Billy Idol?
It was Tony Dimitriades’ house.
You didn’t know anything about artist management?
I had no idea. I just knew that I liked music, and that I wanted to be in the business and I didn’t like what I was doing there.
Tim Heyne started Union Entertainment Group in 1987?
He sure did.
You came along four years later. When did John Greenberg come in?
John came in 1989/’90.
You had been booking at Tapestry Artists?
Tapestry and Tap/ko (Union Entertainment Group’s former name) shared office space. (Tapestry resident/owner) Paul Barbarus brought me in to help him. I was working for him booking tours in South East Asia for War and Canned Heat. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. That was when I found out what a manager does and what an agent does. I don’t want to deal with promoters, c’mon.
Were you a good negotiator?
Sure, yeah. Most of my job was pushing paper and it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be part of all aspects of a band; and to be able to develop a band from the ground up. I was fortunate to find a couple of bands that needed managers, I took them on, and I started working with the management company as well.
In 2005, Tim was shot and his wife gunned down. A devastating moment.
To the family, of course. For the company, yes. Tim is not only my partner (along with John Greenberg) but he’s also my right-hand man, and one of my best friends on the planet. So it was a tragic, tragic day, and a tragic time. No reason. It was just one those random things that happen. It really showed me the kind of man that he is and how strong he and his family are. To this day, his family is strong. He has remarried, and he’s happy and his kids are all married and having kids. They are just so strong. They volunteer themselves for gun control, helping wherever they can, and have done good things with it. Made a tragedy into a positive as much as they can.
How did you hear about the shooting?
His son (Jeff Heyne) called me.
[A 2005 killing spree in L.A. started with an attack that injured Tim Heyne and killed his wife Jan and attorney Steve Mazin. Jan was pronounced dead at the scene, Mazin died at a nearby hospital; and Tim Heyne, shot in the chest, survived. The Heynes were returning a boat they had borrowed from Mazin when the gunman approached them in the driveway. The gunman then opened fire, hitting all three.
After the shootings, the gunman carjacked a Ford F-150 and disappeared until the next morning, when he broke into a home in a gated community. There, he attacked a woman, who later died from her injuries, and beat her two children into unconsciousness. He then shot a police officer who arrived at the scene. The gunman then drove to a Wal-Mart store in Simi Valley, went in and apparently shot at the ammunition case in the sporting goods department before turning the gun on himself.]
How many people on staff at Union Entertainment Group?
About 20 people. It is still quite small. That is managers and department heads. Each artist has their own staff.
How do you balance your attention with the artists that you handle? It must be quite difficult.
It is. There are not enough hours in the day, period. You have to make sacrifices but you do your best for everybody. I try to give everybody equal time. Whatever is in front of me, I will deal with. Whatever we can do. That is what is so good about bringing great people into the company. I can rely on those people to handle things that I may not be able to get to at that moment. You have to rely on your staff and rely on the people around you.
Do you piggy-back artist clients on tours?
Only when it makes sense. I certainly don’t want to push one band onto another because inevitably it won’t work. For the upcoming (Nickelback) tour, My Darkest Day will be the opening act. They are one of our artists, and it’s a great fit. If the bands are successful than it works, but if it is just to put them on to put them on then it is not going to work for either party; so why do it? We will help friends of the band because they are friends. That’s great. But just to package just to package doesn’t make a lot of sense unless it’s a joint effort.
In this economy, it makes more sense to have the strongest bill possible.
That’s what we try to do. Two plus two makes five or one plus one equals three type of thing. We always try to have a really good package. If it happens to be one of our artists, great; but we are going to put on the best show possible for whatever artist it is.
You took on the management of Default, and built them alongside Nickelback.
Yeah. When Chad found Default, and recorded their album and played it to me I was sold just on the songs themselves. Then I met the guys, and I saw them play live and the same thing as with Nickelback, I was into it.
[Vancouver-based Default, formed in 1999. After the band won a talent contest in 2000 on Vancouver rock station CFOX, airplay for the song "Deny" spread rapidly across Canada. Sales of their album “The Fallout” followed suit.
After the band signed with TVT, the band re-recorded the album.
Following on earlier successes by Nickelback and Sum 41, Default became the next Canadian rock band to have a breakthrough hit in the U.S. as “The Fallout” found a growing American audience, due in large part to airplay for the single "Wasting My Time."]
What is happening with Default nowadays?
Default is on a hiatus as we call it. (Singer) Dallas Smith has a country album that will be coming out. The first single (“Somebody Somewhere”) is at radio now (in Canada). It’s on 604 Records (operated by Chad Kroeger and Canadian entertainment lawyer Jonathan Simkin).
Union Entertainment Group has recently signed Daniel Powter and George Lynch.
Yes, Daniel Powter is with us. George Lynch is a newly-acquired client with a new manager that we brought in. Larry Moran who has been a tour manager that we have used for many many years. He’s been like family, anyway.
Daniel Powter has a long way to go to regain his career.
For him, it will be a comeback. We took him on about a year ago. It’s just been about building him back again. We got “Bad Day” (his 2006 hit) placed on a bunch of NFL games over this past season; and sales of the song have tripled every week for many weeks in a row. We are just trying to get his profile back and then we will drop another record pretty soon. It’s just been about building his profile up again.
In Dec. 2009, Daniel Powter was named as the decade's top “One-Hit Wonder” by Billboard magazine. Why take someone one who has only had one hit? That you can rebuild a career up from nothing again?
I’d like to say that there’s been that much thought put into it; that there’s a strategy. But honestly, it’s about working with people that we like. We like him as a person. We are in sync with him (with his goals). He works hard. He wants to work hard. He wants to make a comeback. We weren’t part of his rise and fall but we know that he’s got good material; that he’s a good person; and that we’d like to work with him. So we just hope for the best.
You have long expressed an interest in working with a country act. You worked with a country act years ago, Shane Parker.
Yeah. I grew up on country. In my rock collection, I always still had Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. I’ve always wanted a country artist as well.
Like Kenny Chesney?
I love Kenny. I love what he’s doing. I have so much respect for him. He has turned his shows into a big party, and that’s been a big success for him. That is kind of what Nickelback has done. That’s part of the reason for their touring success.
What has stopped you from having a country artist on the roster?
We just haven’t found the right one. We opened up a Nashville office a few years and have a few guys there. They are both focused on the Christian side (of the business) which I feel is important. But we just haven’t found the right country artist.
At one time Union Entertainment Group handled the management of producers, including for Garth Richardson.
Early on, John put Garth together with Rage Against The Machine. That kind of took his career off. We handled producers in the ‘90s, and we stopped. We just started it back up again. We hired Lenny Johnson who was the A&R guy for Default at TVT. He manages producers, songwriters, and bands.
What happened with Union’s joint venture label with EMI, Audionest?
We actually have a new joint venture for Audionest with Fontana. The EMI deal ran out. We did the deal with David Munns, and when he left EMI it became a different company. We put out the Default album (“Comes & Goes”) in Canada. are putting out the Candlebox record in April.
How do you handle being abruptly fired as a manager?
Well, I will tell you that it has never happened personally. There’s been a few artists that I’m friends with, and I have worked with, and it has come to, “Let’s just not work it together anymore. You have this; we have this; and that’s fine.” The artist that I felt that I had found, built up, and bled for, and was unappreciated by was Saliva.
Saliva's Josey Scott publicly dissed you and Chad, saying you two screwed him out of money.
Of course. And that was hurtful. I did nothing but help those guys. It was pure jealousy. What happened was that our contract was up, and I just said, “I’m not going to renew. I am not going to work with you guys, anymore.” And it pissed him off. That’s why he went to the press and started saying those things. He was jealous about Nickelback from the day when Nickelback started to break. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work. I wished them all well, but I haven’t talked to him since.
[On the release of “Survival of the Sickest” in 2004, Saliva's Josey Scott told MTV.com’s Joe D'Angelo, “As a band, we cleaned house on this record. We fired our manager, Bryan Coleman. We fired our booking agent. We fired our lawyers. We fired our tour manager. We fired everybody, and we hired all new guys.”
Asked why the changes, Scott replied, “They didn't have our best interests at heart. Nickelback comes out with one hit and all of a sudden we get put on the back burner by Bryan Coleman because he's too busy brown-nosing Nickelback. And where are they now? They ain't doin' shit. They're back in Canada eating shrimp and smokin’ f---in’ cigarettes.”]
What excites you about what you do? That makes you go, “wow.”
The relationships with the artists. To be on a golf course together or to be somewhere together and go, “That was a good day” or “That was a good video shoot” or whatever we are doing. Just to sit back, and enjoy each other. That’s the reward. To see them happy, and to see their dreams become true. That’s the payoff.
How often are you on the road with clients?
Quite a bit. Whenever they are doing things in L.A., I’m with them and in key markets, I am always there. When most of the bands are on tour, I go out and see them at least once a week.
At 41, what are your ambitions? What do you want to be doing in 20 years?
I love what I do. As long as my family is happy, and I have a good home life, and my clients are happy and I am happy doing it, I am going to continue doing this.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”
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