MUBUTV Insider Podcast Episode Transcript
[Kenny “Tick” Salcido]
Ritch Esra: Kenny, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.
Kenny Salcido: Thank you for having me. Ritch, I'm a big fan of this conference and your work, so thank you. It's an honor.
Ritch Esra: Thank you. I always like to start these conversations with the question, when in your life did you know that the music business was going to be your professional career path?
Kenny Salcido: Oh, wow. This is one of my favorite questions I've ever been asked. I honestly see no, I'm not even kidding. I mean, it really is one of my favorite questions I've ever been asked. I think for me, my dad was in the military, and my mother worked at a bank, and I had zero ties to the music business in any way or shape or form. And growing up in the suburbs outside of Los Angeles, California, I just didn't really didn't know you could make a living in the music business. So for me, when I knew that this is, like, the path I was really going to do because keep in mind, I had no reference point, I didn't think it was possible. I was an intern at Grand Royal Records in Atwater Village for theBeastie Boys. And when Mike D for the Beastie Boys kind of took a liking to me and took me under his wing. And I went from being an intern to a part time college radio kid calling college radio stations around the country, you know, just calling them and working them on records at the time and knowing I was getting encouragement from one of my most favorite artists I grew up listening to. And that's Mike D in the Beastie Boys. I think having his validation and then being at a cool label like Grand Royal and Indie label, I was like, “Oh, my God, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”. This is what I want to do. Whether it was I started off as a promotions person, right, like, doing college radio promotions, but also being close to Mike in that era of the Beastie Boys, he was signing artists. So I was watching an artist do A&R, right? So for me, I was like, I want to be that guy because he's an artist. He was signing artists. He had his own clothing line, his own record label, and he had his own studio. So I was watching this guy be a renaissance man in a way, and I was like, my God, I want to do that. And right away, I think he kind of gave me a clear path of what I wanted to do. I hope that answers.
Eric Knight: Yeah, absolutely.
Ritch Esra: And you've done that.
Kenny Salcido: Thank you. And if you pick up the Beastie Boys book, he actually makes fun of me in the book in a good way. He says a kid named Kenny Salcido, Kenny “Tick” Salcido used to be at the office before anyone drinking 7/11 coffee running up and down the steps of the studio. And that's how I got the nickname Tick for being so hyper. Grand Royal Beastie Boys gave me that Nickname.
Ritch Esra: That's a great story.
Eric Knight: He was kind of in the forefront of doing that - where now that's commonplace, where you have an artist that's involved in so many different areas. So he was kind of like doing that.
Kenny Salcido: Well said. I mean, I love that you just said that he was it - was the template. It was the template that I would see later on. I mean, when I got involved with Grand Royal as an intern, it really happened as me wanting to be a journalist, I didn't know there was an entry point in the music business whatsoever. I was in high school and I was doing really well in English classes and I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write for Thrasher magazine and SPIN and Rolling Stone and Source magazine and write about punk and hip hop and everything that was happening at that time. And when I went to get this internship at Grand Royal, which was the Beastie Boys magazine, I went to that internship trying to do that. And then it just so happened, the GM at the time said, “Why don't you intern under the college radio department?” And me being a kid in my late teens, I was like, alright, but I can't believe you can make a living talking about records. And sure enough, we made a living talking about records, right? But that's what happened. And watching Mike have Grand Royal magazine, the record label, the studio, Jisun Studios, which is infamous and still there in Atwater Village, run by many different people, creatives now, it was magic. It was magic to see that happen and be at the forefront of seeing somebody build their kind of mini little empire and environment. Now you see so many artists do it self contained, have their own studio, have their own clothing line, get into acting. Now, that's a very common thing. You look everyone from Dominic Fike to before Dominic Fike, Childish Gambino, acting and making music and a TV show and well said.
Ritch Esra: And it's fascinating listening to you because I'm hearing my own story of my own life. I had a promotion job. That's how I started. I started a promotion at A&M
Kenny Salcido: As a kid. I know, honestly, you have such an incredible story and not to pride, but how incredible was that too? And you had no one to help you. You just went in there and just figured it out.
Ritch Esra: Just an interest. I had interest and I learned about what promotion was and calling radio stations and checking records out. And then from there I went into promotion and marketing at Arista. Well, it was at A&M first got into it, got the internship at A&M and did exactly what you did in radio promotion. Not in college, but in radio promotion.
Kenny Salcido: Yes. And what's amazing about that job, I think for anyone, especially just when you speak to college radio kids, they're so in shape with what's going on culturally multi-genre. I was getting tipped to unsigned artists in a weird way. College radio set me up for A&R because these DJs were these, like, music geeks just like me, that were these music nerds that just were up late at night wanting to play music because we love it, right? It's our lives. We just love it. And they were turning me on. “Oh, by the way, do you know this unsigned band?” Or my buddy in Portland, weirdly enough, sending me Modest Mouse before Modest Mouse was signed, or sending me early demos of I remember Raucous Records, which was a great hip hop label, and they sent me demos of stuff they were signing. And it just was amazing. Trading music back then with people and just finding new music that you later look back on and you're like, wow. And now music trading is so easy. I could just send you a spotify list and it's just so easy. But it's beautiful. I'm not jaded about it. I actually think it's much easier. Well, it's now harder to process because it's so much now. Now we're getting bombarded where before Ritch would get a demo tape or a demo CD or just a demo in general, and Ritch could actually spend the evening just focusing on that. Well, now Ritch is getting a playlist of some 80 songs. Ritch, check out my new band. Oh, my God. Yes.
Ritch Esra: I was saying at the panel. It's that tsunami that comes at us every day. You get it.
Kenny Salcido: I get the tsunami daily.
Ritch Esra: Yes. Your position.
Kenny Salcido: Thank you.
Eric Knight: Thank you so much for doing this. This is Eric, and I'm so honored to have you on the show. Kenny, you're head of A&R for a label that is owned by a major brand, Red Bull. What is your criteria, both creatively and non creatively, for signing an artist today?
Kenny Salcido: Well, you know, I'm blessed because working for a brand owned record label, I mean, Red Bull, it has a cool factor to it.
Whether people drink the drink or not, it doesn't matter because it's such a pure company. They believe in their product. They believe in the athletes they promote. They believe in their employees. It's a fascinating... My boss and mentor, Greg Hammer, hired me. He basically kind of gave me the kind of ethos and kind of told me about. And I thought to myself, no way could it be Shangri-La. No way, no way, no way. And sure enough, you go there and you're like, wow, this is pretty amazing that they really the company is privately owned, right? But it is a true indie label. The label goes through in Indies. It goes through The Orchard, and we sign one to two to three artists at a time. Which means, like Ritch said, we could hyper focus on each artist. Think about this. We have a band called Bear Tooth.
Eric Knight: Which I was just going to.
Kenny Salcido: We signed them in 2013. And it's an amazing success story because Sat Bisla, Ritch and Monty were probably one of the first three executives outside Red Bull Records that were early fans of it. Matt Pinfield also being one of them. The band didn't have the big stats, and we stood by them. They're making their fifth album. They could sell out massive,
Eric Knight: Right? Speaking of, Caleb, another artist that
Kenny Salcido: Massive places.
Eric Knight: That writes, produce, everything,
Kenny Salcido: They sell out all over the world, pure. He writes, he mixes, he produces it all himself. I mean, he's a total prodigy. And we stood by him for five albums and we're making the fifth album. Now, what's funny about that is another A&R label said, “My God, you stood by that artist. Not just for two albums. Three is kind of an anomaly”. Nowadays, even two is an anomaly. We don't make it. Five. Aces are making their third album. Think about that. They're all under 25. They're all under 25, 26 range. But think about this. They're on their third album and we stood by them. And I think the beauty why I give those examples is to answer your question, I don't think I could have had the true artist development with the artist I believe in, with Greg, that I could at any other label but Red Bull Records. We stood by every one of those artists. And I love what major labels do. Trust me, I was there. I worked for Tom Walley (former CEO warner Bros.) who's one of my favorite execs out there. And it's one of those things where you think about that, right? And you think about you have a clock on you. You're at a major label. The artists have a clock on you. You as an A&R executive. Even with somebody of Ritch, as with Pedigree, would have a clock on him. You'd have a clock. Ritch has to deliver in these two years of his contract to have hits, to keep perpetuating how massive that company is.
Where Red Bull I really believe this wholeheartedly that we sign artists that have to make a cultural impact. With that being said, that's the mandate that I was given. Which is why we stood by Barrettooth, which is why we stand by Aces, which is why myself, CB, Greg, we stand by Blast, we stand by Wonder Girls imprint. We really empower these artists to grow and build. Almost like what Neil said, we build businesses out of these artists, too. When the Aces were doing 17 people at a show. Now they're selling out The Fonda. Now it's a real business. Now the Aces can sell out The Fonda, clean. And you can go to a show and have a beer and watch this incredible band play with kids singing every word back. That's the joy I get from working there and being the head of A&R, I think that's and then my own personal gratitude is knowing that I'm working with artists where I'm not having to chase stats, where the stats - the data is only to help validate or help maneuver what we're doing, whether it's marketing or promotions or whatever we're doing. If something is raising its hand data wise, then I think that helps us go to Radio or maybe we put a little bit of marketing dollars in that region. Correct. Right. So then I look at it like this. I mean, that's great. But for my soul, what feeds my soul is being able to be at a company that really wants to tap into culture.
Eric Knight: Right.
Kenny Salcido: So, like, we have Red Bull Studios, which we don't charge artists for, that's friends ofRed Bull Records. That's artists on Red Bull Records. And sometimes we could create magic. Terrace Martin, one of my favorite artists in the world, has recorded at Red Bull Studios and worked on his jazz project. Rants over at 1500, has worked on his musician project. Many artists who aren't even signed to the label have touched on it. And that's the beautiful thing is being able to touch artists in that way and make music that's going to last the test of time. Yeah.
Eric Knight: So Red Bull is truly artist development.
Kenny Salcido: It's true artist development. And I really believe that. I believe Red Bull Records is about artist development.
Ritch Esra: You've touched on some things here that I would like you to expand upon, which is the whole concept of Red Bull really is looking for creatively things that touch the culture, things that move the culture. Can you talk to us about because it's a unique entity. Can you talk to us about some of the advantages or unique practical elements that a Red Bull Records can offer that another label cannot? Because you guys have a lot.
Kenny Salcido: Why, thank you. You know what I mean? I could speak and I love that Ritch, you said it so eloquently. It's like Red Bull Records. I could speak to. Just Red Bull records. The brand is amazing. I'm a massive fan of the brand. But Red Bull Records, right?
What we do think of it as an indie label with the resources of a major because we have an executive at the company named Scott Slutski. And Scott is amazing. What he does is brand integration.
Ritch Esra: Right.
Kenny Salcido: He's the reason why you can see an artist on Red Bull Records play a Red Bull platform or a stage at a Red Bull festival or maybe there's integration where Albert Hammond Jr. Is playing Formula One, Baretooth is leaping out of a plane promoting one of their records. You know what I mean? It's incredible. So I think with Red Bull being a global brand, we have boots on the ground in every country. Think about that, right? And Ritch, I think one of the things that watching Ritch and Sat speak over the years, and I was an executive over at Warner, what is now Warner Records was Warner Bros. Records when I was there under Tom Walley's regime and Craig Aaronson . And I think I always try to use the word global, but I really didn't know what that meant until I went to go work for Red Bull Records. And Ritch would use that word because he had tentacles all over the world. Sat would use that word because you look at an entity like A&R Worldwide, that's a true global company. At Warner Bro. Records, I was a US based A&R executive who wanted to sign artists on a global platform. But sometimes you're limited in what you can do to help promote those artists. I think at Red Bull Records, I truly work across all platforms. It's amazing.
Eric Knight: It's amazing. Let me ask you, what can Red Bull Records offer prospective artists that you're looking to sign that is unique from other labels? I think you've kind of touched on that with your previous answer here, but what do you think re those?
Kenny Salcido:I think, a hands on Indie approached. Listen, I'll tell you right now, we've competed for The Aces. We beat a major label. And I'll tell you why. Beartooth, we competed against a major label. We beat them for that major label. And all those majors will admit they did. I hate using the word win or lose because no one wins or lose in this business because it's about the artist. But I will say this. Red Bull Records won in the bidding war for the Aces, Baretooth and Blast, and all major labels were in the running to sign each of those artists. And the reason why all three of those artists chose us is for the hands on Indie approach. Yet the real support and resources and it's not about for us, it's not about the money. It's about a cultural impact. They know we're going to stick by them. They know that they're going to get Greg Hammer on the phone. They know they're going to get CB on the phone. They know they're going to get Nicky, Scott, myself. They're going to get people, executives on the phone. 24/7, we're all hands on deck. There's 28 of us, three in the UK, all in LA riight now. And we really have a hands on approach. That's what we can guarantee those artists. And they all hear about it. They talk to people. Also, as far as resources, we also have in house PR, in house digital marketing, international team and our international team quarterbacks those boots around the world.. So we offer people
Eric Knight: A true integration.
Kenny Salcido: Yes, a true brand integration and global platform. Right. So you think about that. They can call if something's wrong. Suppose Ritch is managing one of our bands, and Ritch is like, listen, there's something happening in Brighton. We have to make all hands on deck. Let's support that. Let's figure out what marketing dollars we need to spend to get that artist in that territory. And let's go. That has been something that I think Red Bull Records was great at from its early inception, from the very first regime of the company led by Greg Hammer at that time, and AWOL Nation in that first era of Red Bull Records into now, listen, recent example, Blast was starting to get some traction on local LA Radio. We fan that fire when most major labels were saying bad things about Red Bull Records. “Oh, they're never going to get you on the radio”. “They're never going to do this”. We have gold plaques that are about to be platinum because we did exactly what they said we couldn't do. Does that make sense? So it's like we really hyper focus on those certain areas that let's just say an executive.
Eric Knight: You super serve them. You super serve them.
Kenny Salcido: Yeah. A guy like Ritch would probably identify, hey, that little market. There's something going on. Okay, let's go. Let's do a logo show. Let's do something. Let's get that artist in that marketplace. Let's go. It's amazing.
Ritch Esra: It's interesting in listening to you, Kenny, because one of the things that I'm realizing in your answers is that you're identifying the criteria of what you're looking for without even doing that by talking about the values.
Kenny Salcido: Thank you. I'm very flattered. And you know what? It's funny. I think, like I said, you're a great moderator. I think somebody like me, I'm constantly thinking. I'm a creative executive. Right. I came up being a journalist, making beats and loving A&R so somebody like Ritch can pull out all that information. And I love artists. And when we're able to super seed and super feed what they're doing and really hyper focus and really push the boundaries on what people think, it's possible. I think that's kind of why we do it. Why we do what we do.
Ritch Esra:Absolutely. And you deal with self contained acts.
Kenny Salcido: We do.
Ritch Esra:You deal with yes, I know. Blast
Kenny Salcido: Aces are starting to become more and more self contained. They used one producer on this album, and I could tell you all of them are becoming proficient at recording and making music. So it's unbelievable to see those artists now at the age of 25. We saw them when they were 18, 19. So at 25, to be able to be self contained, it's unbelievable. It's amazing to watch
Ritch Esra: …and to see the growth
Kenny Salcido: …and to see the growth for sure. And to even work with, establish accents Albert Hammond Jr. To see Albert come into his second album with Red Bull Records, which is going to be amazing to watch that grow. And we've taken that from not just a side project from the guitarist in the Strokes, but to Albert Hammond Jr. Making this next iconic album for 2023.
Eric Knight: How important in your position is the team of an artist when you're considering signing them? Is that something that goes into your consideration when you're going to make that commitment?
Kenny Salcido: I will tell you some of the biggest mistakes I've made in the business is just not thinking about the team. And just think about this, I sign off gut, my career will dictate that. I will tell you that from signing Terrace Martin with Wiz Khalifa, with no bidding war, to Aces and Beartooth and all of these artists. Right. CB and I did Blast together and that was also gotten passion. Right. But you think about this with time. I've been blessed to having great management teams with all of those artists I just mentioned. Right. But there are some artists that I can't talk about where you fall in love with their music. You hear that voice and you sometimes think, “Oh, my God, I just met that manager and I have a feeling this is going to be a very punishing, grueling situation, but maybe the songs will make it all worth it”. And then you have to realize that that manager is an extension of that artist. And I promise you, the biggest mistakes in my life is not listening to my gut and still signing that artist when I knew that manager was detrimental to their career. And let's just say you probably never heard of those artists because of that situation. Right. I'm sure many A&Rs, many executives, people like Ritch and Sat have tried so hard to help these artists and that management team or manager is standing in the way. And I will never be the one to speak badly about a manager. I just don't know. Because at the end of the day, we don't know what's going on behind closed doors, being an inner executive right. Or a producer or executives like you, too. But I think you have to be very smart on that signing, especially nowadays with how hard it is to cut through. Like Mia said, that you need to vet everything from not just the star quality of the artist and the music, but who is representing this artist.. Because that is going to tell everything. Yeah.
Eric Knight: It's a direct extension of what they are yeah,
Ritch Esra: Absolutely. And on a practical level, you're asking, as a Red Bull executive, can my efforts, time, energy and commitment be supported by this person or not? And if they can't be, I don't want to be involved.
Kenny Salcido: Well said. And sometimes you'll hang on to it and people will say certain things about managers, oh, this manager is a punisher, but you have to realize that even if you hang on to something and you have success and that manager is still a punisher with you and your stuff. The one thing I'm not a what it could've should've got. I think we all are deep down in this business, sadly, but you can't be in life. You can't be in this business. No what it could have, should have. You have to realize that it was all for a reason to get you to a certain place, right? Right. And sometimes there's always those moments where you think to yourself, “God, we just barely made it with that horrific partner in a manager that is never happy, right? We just made it. He imagined if we didn't have that, if we just made it and we're having success, could you imagine if you had a real partner that brings value. My God, you'd be probably platinum and you'd be fucking Kid Leroi or Justin Bieber or one of these are just massive. You know what I mean? So you got to think about those things. And I think about that now at this stage of my career. I have to. I used to be able to cheat code it or turn a blind I turn a blind eye to it, right, and say, that manager is not great, but it's about the artist. And it always is about that artist. But you can't do it nowadays without great management. To be blunt, I will not greenlight a signing if I have a red flag with a manager, I will not do it and I will not tell why. I would just be like, you know what? We're not the right home. And they're going to have to figure it out themselves. I'm sorry. You know what I mean? There's so many great artists out there. I look at this amazing view and there's thousands and thousands of undiscovered talent just here in Los Angeles alone, let alone the rest of the world, that if somebody can't figure it out with their team, there's going to be another.
Ritch Esra: Exactly
Eric Knight: How much weight do you place in an artist's live performance ability when considering signing them? Does it vary with genre?
Kenny Salcido: It does varies with genre. I can tell you right now. I believe bands will get better with time. I think with experience you can kind of see the potential. I mean, I've gone to a show where it was still baby and it was still developing, but we took a shot and now the band is so comfortable on stage and just massive. But also, I'll tell you, it varies with genre. One of the biggest criteria Red Bull Records had before I was even there was they wouldn't sign an artist unless they saw it live. That was the truth. Before I was ever an executive at Red Bull Records. I was in A&R at Warner Bros. At that time I've never fully subscribed to that just because I think nowadays it changes with genre, and I think people get better with time. I just do.
I think if you have a vision and a belief that they could then take the shot, take the shot and swing, but if you feel like, “Oh, my God, that's the DNA, and it's never going to get better than that”, then that probably would affect if I'm going to sign that artist, to be honest. But I haven't seen that yet. I've seen the Aces only get better. We watched Blast only get better. We watched flaws only get better. Gavin Haley is a perfect example. I watched Gavin Haley play an acoustic set just with the A&R team at that time, and you saw him get that. He just opened up for Tate McRae. So it's like, you watch them get better with time, and you're like, My God, if you can keep just feeding the fire and keep them working, then it's like anything
Eric Knight: You do it enough, you get better.
Kenny Salcido: It’s like Ritch and moderating, man. My God! I was very impressed.
Eric Knight: He’s like the master.
Kenny Salcido: He’s a jedi, I was up there sweating. He was just like.
Ritch Esra: You know what it is? I don't look at it as moderating. I look at it as just the art of conversation.
Kenny Salcido:You're a master of them.
Ritch Esra: Thank you! you've been so generous with your time here with us, and we appreciate it immensely. And I want to ask you a question because you've had such deep experience in this field, what in your mind are the specific qualities that make a great A&R person?
Kenny Salcido: I think a great A&R person is integrity. I think that the belief and trust in yourself and others. I think that is so important for an A& R person to have. And you could grow into those things. Of course, everyone would take confidence. But I think, like anyone, I think you look at anything in life, I think we all feel just the same right? There's one of my favorite quotes is a boxing trainer named Cus D’Amato and he trained Mike Tyson, and he said, “The hero and the coward feel just the same. It's what they do. It's what the hero does that makes him a hero, and what the coward doesn't do that makes him a coward”. And I think A&R is the same thing. It's like we have to believe in our gut. We can't lose faith, and we're always going to lose faith. Think about it. We're the closest thing to the artists. We're the warriors, all of us. Anyone who does A&R in records or publishing, even managers who dabble in A&R and executives who dabble in A&R, we're the conduit. We're the ones that the artists trust. So we're almost like the big brother or parent to these artists. They need us. I went to go see my mother a couple of weeks ago, and she said, “These artists need you”. And as simple as that sounded, it's so true. And I think we always, as executives, A&R executives, we have to be reminded that we are the conduit, we are the protector and the believers in these artists, even when our own belief is shaken to the core about that artist, even when they don't believe in themselves. We're the coaches, we're the Cus D’Amato’s.
We're the ones that have to believe and sometimes fake it until we make it. Sometimes even lie to ourselves and say, you know what? They're going to make it. Even if you're shaken, because guess what? There's something deep down that says they are right? So I hope,
Ritch Esra: That's a core belief.
Kenny Salcido: I think we need that as A&R executive. And you need the ear. And you need to always trust your ear. Even if your boss doesn't believe it, or other peers don't believe it, you have to trust that ear. I would have never signed Wiz Khalifa. Listen, my own boss at the time, I sent it to Craig Aaronson, he believed in it. We signed Wiz Khalifa together. And I love my mentors at Warner Bros. At the time, they didn't hear it. They didn't understand what Wiz was. But I trusted my gut, even to the very end, even when Wiz parted ways with Warner, and I parted ways with Warner. At that time, I still believed. I believed even before black and yellow, when he was Labeless under a little indie with Rostrum. And I think all of us, as A&Rs, have to have that feeling of even your W's, your L’s are not really losses. They're lessons. Yeah, right. So the wins and us as athletic executives, us as athletes, right? They say we have wins and losses, or you bet on the right. I was told one day with Wiz, “Oh, you bet on the wrong horse”. That's what one of these executives told me. “You bet on the wrong horse. He wasn't a star” He's one of the most iconic artists here in the last 20, 30 years.
Ritch Esra: Right.
Kenny Salcido: But you look at that. I stood by it. Trust me. There were many nights at home I cried, and I hate admitting that I cried. And I didn't question my belief, though. I said, this guy hopefully shows them whether it's now or ten years from now. And I believe that in a lot of these artists that we work on. But I believe there's a lot of people like me who've had those L’s and W's, and they're all lessons. They all led to where I'm at now.
Eric Knight: And it seems like the trend with all the A&R people that we've interviewed is all based on their gut.
Kenny Salcido: It's all gut. Listen, the data is there to help me. What people forget about A&R they all want to do the job, but then they forget that you can lose this job at any time, just like life. Nothing is ever guaranteed. You are on the chopping block 24/7. But you got to do what you believe in. So we're the warriors. We're the ones taking the punches in the ring and could get it's kill or be killed. It's a blood sport. It really is, depending on what company you're at. But I respect them all. I respect them all, whether I know them or don't know them. I think anyone with an A&R title in their signature in 2022 is a special individual, and they have to hang on to that for as long as they can, because like my mother said, the artists need you. They do. These artists need us so badly, especially now.
Eric Knight: Yeah. Are there any particular things that an artist can do to get on your radar or on the radar of A&R that you would advise an artist to do?
Kenny Salcido: Yeah. I believe there used to be an old saying. I remember I used to hear great A&Rs like Luke Wood and Ron Handler say, “Don't worry, we'll find you”. Right. I think now, with social media and what we have, I think if they can keep finding that balance of integrity and some people say you got to get your Tik Tok socials up, your socials up, I think having integrity still being active in whatever platform suits you. TikTok may not work for certain artists. Instagram may not work, certain things may not work. But honing in on that one or two things that you know you're great at, whether it's a live show or it's a YouTube video of you doing a cover and really reaching out to these labels, a lot of labels say they don't take unsolicited demos. We all get blind copy on demos. We all get bombarded. Keep sending them. I tell artists, keep pushing, keep flooding emails, keep pushing. Because at some point, maybe there might be an A&R executive whose tired. She or he may come home late at night, and you never know what they click on, and you never know what they hear. And you hear those stories of great A&R executives like Mike Caren who found a song just by listening late at night. Or Craig Kalman or, you know, Aton Ben-Horin or all these amazing execs, you know, who discovered these records. Whether it's a song that they ended up purchasing or putting together a hit song or it's an artist that they just randomly heard. I also think getting your music to people that you know is a reliable source of somebody like Sat or Ritch Esra or people like that, they do send music. They don't send it often because for them, it's a precious exchange. You know what I mean? I think for Ritch to send me an artist, I think it'd have to be an artist that he felt I was the right executive for, and the label was the right no disrespect to myself or Red Bull Records. He might want to send it to Aton or somebody like that, just because it might be the better culture, artist wise. But I think keep getting your music out there. Don't give up. Just keep sending it out and use those platforms, whatever is specific for you, whether it's TikTok or Instagram or any of these things. And YouTube.
Ritch Esra: Let me ask you, Kenny, throughout your life, have there been any books or movies that have truly been inspirational to you, professionally speaking?
Kenny Salcido: Oh, my God. My God. Thank, Ritch. You're a true artist.I love that. There's some amazing movies. I think books and movies. I think movies. The Kid Stays in the Picture.
Ritch Esra: I love that one.
Kenny Salcido: The Kid Stays in the Picture. Because I think if you're an A&R executive, the cheat code is this. And if you get anything, if I was to pass away tomorrow, as long as you show up and you show up and you stay in the picture, something's going to happen.
And you can't really look at it as good or bad. You look at how long I've been doing this, right? I stayed in it. I just stayed in it. And I've had many younger executives say, “Well, didn't you ever worry about Billboard’s 30 under 30 or 50 under 50 or 100 under 100? And it's like, God bless these younger executives for thinking that way. It doesn't matter, because you know what it always comes down to? It's the artist. It comes down to the artist. I just referenced Lenny Waronker, who signed Prince. Do you think Lenny gives a fuck about 30 under 30 or 40? And he never did. None of the greats do. None of them do. Jody Gerson, these amazing people, Ashley Newton, none of them do. And I think when I saw The Kid Stays in the Picture, which was given to me by a great musician, his name is Wag. He was in a band called Mary's Danish. He told me to watch that movie, and I watched it. Mike D, my mentor, he had turned me on to some incredible movies. I just loved it for the cinematography and the story. I thought Taxi Driver, to me, changed my life when I saw it. Not for the gore or for the darkness of the movie, but when you look at a movie like Taxi Driver, so many movies have tried to emulate it. Now, whether it's the movies like Joker or movies like any movie you see Ryan Gosling in, I think he was beyond influenced by De Niro's performance in that. And it's not being the tough guy if you watch that movie. The movie is about vulnerability. The movie is about loneliness.
Ritch Esra: Loneliness.
Kenny Salcido: “God's, lonely man”. They saw the book, and I think all of us as executives, we could get up on that stage and you get all the accolades. It is a lonely business. And it is a business that the artists are lonely, and we're lonely as executives because you don't have immediate gratification right away, even if you think something is immediate gratification. We don't know the narratives or the stories these people have behind closed doors, right? Or the mental illness or the conditions people struggle with. No one knows. Everyone thinks, “Oh, that person got it, or that person is in A&R because of privilege, or that person is an executive, or, that person got this because of this, or he's so and so no one really knows how hard it is to stay in a business that you can't really quantify”. And there's so many intangibles, right? So I think, to me, Taxi Driver is one of my most, that movie. I try to watch it as often as possible. I love the music. I think De Niro's performance is unbelievable. And I think Taxi Driver, to me, is fantastic. And I think I love movies like True Romance. I love Alfred Hitchcock movies like The Birds and Rear Window and Vertigo. I love Vertigo and Rear Window just because I just love escaping and going somewhere. And Vertigo, to me, I love those plot twists, and it's like a symphony. Watching Hitchcock. I watch those and I think for me, I go back to all of those movies, and I think cinema played a really important part in my growth as an executive and doing those things. And for me, books, my God, there's so many. There are so many books. I love everything from Hemingway to self help books, even. Most recently, I've brought up this book I just read, the Beastie Boys book, which I fell in love with, and I thought that was an iconic music book that I think everyone should listen to whether you love the Beastie Boys or not, or even know who they are,
I think if you grew up loving rock or punk or hip hop or all genres, this band was at the forefront of breaking down genres and being commercially successful. So I love that book. That's one of my recent things I wanted to pick up and just go back to.
Ritch Esra: It's interesting you mentioned the music of Taxi Driver. I, too, was an enormous fan of the music of Taxi Driver. It's done by Bernard Herman. It was the last score that he ever did before he died.
Kenny Salcido: Thank you for telling me that. Yeah.
Ritch Esra: And he was the famous composer of Hitchcock and Scorsese used him.
Kenny Salcido: Which is crazy, because I didn't know that. And I'm obsessed with both Hitchcock movies and the early Scorsese films. Everyone points toThe Godfather. The Godfather 1, II & III. There was a period where I was really obsessed with those films, but really Taxi Driver is a movie I watch maybe two or three times a year,
Eric Knight: Probably about the same time that we watched The Godfather.We just went to The Godfather 50th Anniversary.
Kenny Salcido: I mean, The Godfather is a masterpiece. Listen to the music of Taxi Driver and it's so somber and so beautiful. And you see his expressions of being lonely and struggling with paranoia in that cab all alone, picking up strangers and the volatility of just that time and place in New York City in the 70s in Times Square. You really just can't even say it in words on how beautiful that movie is. That movie is magic. Magic is that movie, you know what I mean. And Records. I think Miles Davis. I think BeastieBoys. Check your Head. I think there's so many records I go back to. That reminds me of my…
Eric Knight: Paul’s Boutique.
Kenny Salcido: Paul’s Boutique
Eric Knight:That's the masterpiece as far as I’m concerned.
Kenny Salcido: Exactly. And I go back to those records and I listen to them, and it's magic. Listening to Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk and Beastie Boys and punk music and Bad Brains and Minor Threat and listening to all of those bands and Kate Bush. My brother turned me on to Kate Bush. And I think listening to Kate Bush albums and not just the trendy songs, but the songs that people don't know besides things like that. Talking Heads, Early Hip Hop, Tribe Called Quest, De la Soul. All of these are records that will stand the test of time. I saw Peanut Butter Wolf post something. I love his label. Stones Throw. He posted something about how De la Soul, 3ft, High and Rising, influenced him to do Stones Throw.
And you think about that same thing with me. I think.Beastie Boys, Check Your Head saved my life. I think somebody said to me, especially during the pandemic, take a break. We're not saving lives here, right? And I don't mind taking breaks. It's good to take breaks, right? But I will tell you this, we are saving lives. I really believe that as executive, the three of us at this table, hopefully what we say here sparks somebody to pick up Taxi Driver for the first time, or the record set, or look up the composer that Ritch just mentioned, or watch those Hitchcock films, or listen to the Beastie Boys, or pick up those books, right? And you pick up those books and you think about the history, and then you listen to it now, and you could equate all of these things into where the world is now. You know what I mean? Everything ties back to the past, just like the past ties into the future.
Eric Knight: Kenny, what advice can you offer our listeners who are wanting to pursue a career as an A&R person just like you?
Kenny Salcido: I think, listen, I have friends who say, “Don't do it, don't do it”. I'm a big believer in what I do. Some people say it's not for the faint of heart. I don't agree with that either. I believe that this is what A&R welcomes. Anyone who truly wants to do it and is willing to make the sacrifices that need to happen to do it. Which means there might be early mornings and late nights, which means you're playing the role of a therapist and a coach and somebody who really wants to push the boundaries of someone's music and really give them the confidence that they need to go that extra mile. So that musician wants to or artist wants to run 1 mile, you push them to do two, but you do it with a great bedside manner and grace and encouragement and you know when to pull in and pull out. So that encouragement, I absolutely think, and I encourage it to start off independently. That's my advice to them. Just like the way Ritch did for a second in between his jobs and positions at record label. Same thing with Sat, be a bit entrepreneurial nowadays, start off independent and start off trying to touch all aspects of the artist in management. That's what I would say. I think managers nowadays, in this era, 2022, these young managers are A&Rs and managers - all in one - but it forces them to become A&Rs. It's forcing them to have hard, critical conversations on the artist's music. Why did you do this? Why did you craft the song this way? Why is the chorus hitting this early? Or why isn't it? How do you feel about moving that? Or do you not, do you feel that's a compromise? Then let's not do it. I don't want you to feel compromised, but we do need some songs that could be drivers. Those are the hard conversations you have to have as a young manager and an Are. And I think if you could get in on a boutique level the way I did at Grand Royal, which was indie label, if you can get into it at an indie label or get into A&R at a management company or be an independent manager while you're working your day job. And A&R things on your own to get your chops up. That is the best advice I can give anyone in 2022 about trying to get into A&R. It's not just about hitting up Kenny at Red Bull Records or CB at Red Bull Records or Aton and saying, “Are you hiring an A&R? I'd be your assistant. It's not about that. It used to be about that.
Now it's about really showing your chops. Just like we asked the artists to show and prove. We as executives have to constantly show, improve. We have to, we have to.
Ritch Esra: And finally, what advice would you have for artists who want to pursue a career as a professional recording artist today?
Kenny Salcido: My advice would be stick to your guns, stick to your heart. Be strong because it's hard and it is beyond heart. You will have rejection. Think about this. They couldn't imagine the rejection great artists like Wiz Khalifa had. And I saw it. I saw artists, I hear stories about people like Blasphemy that people passed on them Aces. People passed and they showcased. And it's heartbreaking when you showcase when you showcase for a label and nothing happens. It's heartbreaking. When you take a meeting, we don't see it because we move on to the next one. But only now do I reflect on that and think about what they must go through when they go home and maybe a family member says, “How did that meeting go? Right? How did that meeting go? How did that meeting or how did that showcase go? And let's just say there's no fruition after that and the artist doesn't get the deal. And when the artist doesn't get the deal, it's depressing and heartbreaking. But you use that music to turn that loss into a lesson. And you use that music and your honing your craft and you work harder and harder and harder and push forward. You think if everyone said no, right? If you kept just hearing the no’s, you couldn't get out of bed in the morning. You have to really just push yourselves. I think the artists need to be strong minded and have a great support group around them. If you don't have family or don't have, please find someone to talk to, whether it's a therapist or a family member, a coach or an executive. I mean, those are things I probably never would have said years back. But you do need a great support group, whether you're pushing to be a dancer or an actor or a musician. You asked about musicians. I think musicians, it's ebbs and flows. You can have a great show with five people and then have a great show with 50 people and you have to play them just the same. You can't look at them different. I think, I remember hearing that a manager named Blaze James told me that about at the drive. And he said the reason why he picked up the band back in the day was he had said something that he saw them play for five people and then they played just that same intensity in front of 50 or 100. Right. Beasties were the same way. Beastie Boys were the same way. Aces are the same way. Baretooth. I don't think Caleb even thinks about it that way. He would play and he'd leave his heart on them on the stage, no matter how many people were there. That's the kind of artist he is, and that's the kind of artist you need to be to make it. Absolutely.
Eric Knight: Kenny, where can people best connect with you and Red Bull Records?
Kenny Salcido: It's very simple, I think. Feel free. We do accept unsolicited demos through our site, so please go to www.redbullrecords.com . We're one of the few labels that do it. A lot of people don't do that, so please reach out to us that way. I'm also on Instagram, Tick Dragon, and you could also email as well
Ritch Esra: We can not thank you enough for doing this.
Kenny Salcido: Honestly, this is educational. Honestly. Now I'm going to go back and look up that composer
Ritch Esra: Bernard Hermann.
Kenny Salcido: Well, here's how crazy this is about. Bernard Hermann. I love Hitchcock films. My older sister, for my birthday, gave me a Hitchcock book. Oh, wow. Because I love The Birds and I love Vertigo. I love Rear Window. I love all of these movies he's made- The Rope, all of these movies. And I love Taxi Driver so much. I had no idea why I liked them altogether. The music was the running thread and why I loved it all. So Ritch. Thank you.
Ritch Esra: You're very welcome.
Kenny Salcido: Honestly, you're one of the most special people in this business. I cherish our friendship. I cherish you in this business so much. And thank you so much for all your hard work. And it's an honor to be here. Thank you.
Ritch Esra: It's an honor to have you, Kenny. Thank you.
Kenny Salcido: Thank you both so much.
Ritch Esra: Thank you.
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