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Industry Person of the Month: March 2015 – Mark Abramson

by Photo of Elizabeth Ramanand

We got to chat with metal head, radio guy and all around music lover Mark Abramson about the ups and downs of the industry.

Industry Person of the Month: March 2015 – Mark Abramson

Mark Abramson might be March’s Industry Person of the Month for CHARGED but for many people he has been the industry person for the past couple of decades. Abramson, an all-around radio guy, metal head and rock music lover knows the business first hand.

With over 20 years at Roadrunner Records [now a part of Warner Music] he has helped developed numerous artists in the hard rock community as the former VP of Promotions. When Roadrunner let Abramson go…well the rock and metal community lost their s---t. We had the pleasure of chatting with Abramson about his entire career and what his next moves are for his vibrant future.

With heavy music, it usually starts early – when did you first realize that you loved heavier genres of music?

It really goes back to as early as I can remember. Some of the first bands that truly connected with me on various level were the Beatles, Rush and also KISS and it really kind of flowed from there. After that I discovered all sorts of heavier bands be it Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.

It’s funny the guy who really sent me down my path is Fingers, who does the metal show on WBAB on Long Island. It was listening to his radio show that really sent me down to what I thought I was going to do which was radio, which led me to where I went. It all just came from this music that just connected with me. I guess I’ve always had that anger and rebellious spirit. [Laughs]

[Drawing by Alan Robert of Life of Agony]

How would you describe your relationship with music from then to now?

It’s a very much part of my core and inner being – that may sound poetic or dramatic but it’s true. I always say, music is powerful magic. It’s one of the few art forms that can literally change or save a life. Music has always been something that has affected me on a very inner, core level. Even before I knew it, it always had to be a part of my life and when I was a lost soul trying to figure out what I was going to do music was always there.

I thought I was going into radio and went to college to get a Broadcasting degree which led me down the path of, not radio, but the label side and it was like a beacon went off. When I actually realized I could do this and be involved with music for a living then there was no alternative. My relationship with music is that I can’t live without it.

You’re a radio guy – what do you think of the state of radio in present day?

For rock radio, there is some great radio out there still but to a large degree it’s kind of blowing its opportunity but it’s not too late. What happened is a lot of corporate national programming and a lot of fear and over analyzing that has taken a lot of passion out of it. If there is one thing that rock demands and rock needs, its passion. So the state of radio is that it’s sick but it’s not dead.

The bands out there are great, I have heard some people say that there are no good bands which is a bunch of crap. There are plenty of good bands, having grown up at Roadrunner [Records] we’ve built it on bands that were established on the street and we forced radio to play them.

You can look at a band like Bring Me the Horizon, they’re succeeding in the real world and forcing radio to play them. There are lots of great bands, radio just has to get excited about them.

You spent over 20 years at Roadrunner - What would you say were some highlights of your career while at Roadrunner?

It’s funny, probably my greatest pride, when you talk about artist development, there are a few things I will take to the end of my days as things that I am beyond proud of. Going back to the beginning, Type O Negative is one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life. I’m friends with them to this day and it also established my career, it helped establish their career and it put the label on the map.

As much as people may or may not want to make fun of Nickelback - now, they’re one of the biggest rock bands out there and working with them from the beginning was an amazing story that took a lot of hard work.

Slipknot, of course – obviously, they are a force of nature! Being part of that and being able to take them to that level was amazing. Those were definitely the three biggest.

I’ve also said one of my biggest sources of pride is the artist development of the label itself - I was there when it was seven people in a room and I was there for its growth. Now it’s fully Warner Music and part of the big major label system but getting them there is also something I’m very proud of.

How about some of the smaller artists that you have taken pride in working with.

Oh absolutely, Killswitch Engage I love them beyond words. Seeing what has happened with Jesse [Leach] back in the band has literally revitalized the band. Being involved with Killswitch every step of the way has been fantastic.

Trivium, is something that breaks my heart because, I’ve been with them from the beginning. They are an amazing band, they’re amazing people, so smart and hard-working and they truly partner up with the label and we’ve worked so hard as a team and it’s hard for me to not be able to see that through. Their next record will be amazing.

Anyone who knows me knows that over the last few years I have probably been one of the world’s biggest supporters for the Amity Affliction. I think they are one of the best bands out there.

I’ve never seen such a strong response on Facebook for someone that is still alive – it’s obvious, people love you. You’ve been so kind about the whole thing I guess this next question is obvious - Aren’t you pissed that Roadrunner let you go?

[Laughs] You know, I understand. I have certainly been able to let a lot of the frustration or disappointment or anger out vicariously through the people who are angry for me. Its business, I get it, it’s not personal. As I’ve told many people, I can explain it but I can’t make it make sense. The reality is, I had blood, sweat and tears for that label for most of its existence. Listen, the music business is going through fluxes and changes have to happen.

I guess if I was not going to move forward in this business perhaps I would allow myself to be angrier but I have learned politics over the years. I left Roadrunner after my first seven years and came back three years later and it led to the last 15 years which was amazing.

It’s also something that happened to me, I live in Brooklyn and when Hurricane Sandy came, a third of my house was ruined in the flood and my neighborhood was ravaged and destroyed. It changed me as a person. I decided, as I was going through the wreckage of my house that it was not going to break me. As Jesse Leach says “The trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on!”

Life moves forward and that’s the choice you have. You can both sit and wallow in your misery or you can move forward and that’s what I do.

What is next for you on the horizon?

I’m thinking outside of the box, I would love to perhaps move into artist management. Because I have a family to support I can’t start from square one. If I do stay within the label model which I’m certainly not burned on then I would love to have someone who is passionate like I am and I just want to make sure that I’m able to expand my role.

I want to be able to grow. It’s either going to be going into management or another label where they have the same kind of rock minded, artist development – look I’m still very much a rock and metal guy and will be until the end of time. I want to fight for that format and that genre because that’s what I know how to do.

Do you think you’ll stay within the heavier genres or branch out?

I would do what I had to do for my family. The cool thing is with all that I’ve done over the years I should have earned the luxury to stay with the music that fuels my soul.

With such an illustrious career, how has the job hunting been? Are you hunting jobs or are they hunting you?

[Laughs] You know it is weird because I’m so not used to being out of work. It’s really fine, there’s so much out there. I am trying to focus in on the music I love so I guess there aren’t that many places to go? I’m not trying to shotgun and go after every possible job in the world.

I’m trying to use what I’ve earned to get a job so I can continue to love what I do, I believe that’s possible. It’s a little frustrating but I guess it’s because I want to be back at work already.

For anyone looking to get into this business – what is the best advice you can give to them?

It’s funny, people don’t want to do what I did but it’s a simple process. I’ve seen it work to this day, I was an intern. At the time I quit college because I was not a school person, I wanted into the business, well actually I wanted into Roadrunner so I called up and said I wanted to be an intern. I went in and turned that internship into a job.

Luckily it was a gambit that worked and over the years I’ve seen interns that have turned their internships into jobs. Get in there and prove your worth, people don’t want to work for free anymore – I get it but I don’t get it. If you have the passion and you want to be involved in the music world then you got to pay your dues. Once you’re in the door then you prove your worth and then they don’t want to let you leave.

Update: Mark Abramson has joined Century Media Records and Street Smart Marketing as the new Head of Promotions!

For all of your tickets to metal shows and tickets to rock concerts, be sure to check CHARGED!

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