BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Michele Clark Promotion really started in 1990. My friend Glenn Alexander had a great jazz record that was two years old and had never been worked. I loved it and thought it should be on the radio. I asked Jerry Lembo (then at Columbia) to teach me how to get a record on the radio and on the chart. Being so young and optimistic, it never occurred to me that I could actually fail, so in only eight weeks Glenn’s album debuted on R&R’s NAC chart … and so another indie was born!
I worked many records over several years to the NAC format. I worked with James Lewis Marketing and then very closely with Linda Feder at Private Music. One day Suzanne White asked me if I would please work her Happy Rhodes album to this new format she’d heard about in the Hard Report called Triple A. Looking at the list of Triple A reporters, I realized I was already talking to many of these stations anyway because they were NAC reporters, too (KBCO/Denver, KTCZ/Minneapolis, KGSR/Austin, WMVY/Cape Cod, etc). So I agreed to work this ONE Happy Rhodes record this ONE time to this unheard of Triple A format. And then BAM! — The format exploded! I begged my best friend Madeleine Chattah (now Davis) to be my partner … and the rest is history.
Michele Clark Promotion became a successful independent radio promotion firm. Over our 18 years in business, we worked records to the Triple A, NAC (which morphed into Smooth Jazz), Noncomm, Americana and College radio formats. It was during this time as an indie, that we were inspired to create the Sunset Sessions event. Over the last 13 years, Sunset Sessions has evolved into the premier Triple A Radio Convention.
1. What got you interested in the record business?
I started sneaking out of my bedroom window to follow bands around when I was 16. My friend Kathie and I were nicknamed “The T-Ville Girls” by John Eddie. We used to follow around Robert Hazard & the Heroes, The Hooters, John Eddie & The Front Street Runners, Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers, and Glen Burtnik. I was so inspired by the new music emerging in the Philadelphia /Jersey Shore area, that I decided this biz must be my path. I felt it in my blood!
2. What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
3. Tell us about your years as a Triple A indie promoter.
It was very rewarding and inspiring for so many years. I am blessed that I was able to make a living by talking to my friends on the phone about music! I loved being able to co-create with the artists, labels and radio stations I worked closely with. It made me feel so good to help break unknown artists like Matchbox 20, Hootie & The Blowfish, David Gray, Duncan Sheik, Yanni, Ryan Adams, Pete Yorn, Train, John Mayer, Los Lonely Boys, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5 and many others.
There are very few things in life that felt as good to me as breaking a new band. I had a great time being an indie — until it just wasn’t any fun anymore. When being an indie became a struggle instead of a joy, when it became “my job” instead of “my passion,” I decided it was time to focus my energies elsewhere. I’m excited about the things I’m creating next! Who knows what the future will bring!
4. How did the idea of Sunset Session come together?
There were three specific events that inspired my former partner Madeleine and me to come up with the concept for Sunset Sessions:
1) We were continuously frustrated by other conventions, where our clients (artists/labels) would work so hard to get a band spot and then the radio programmers were pulled in too many different directions to actually attend the performances. I remember our client Lisa standing outside of the Fox Theater trying to find the radio programmers because The Old 97’s were onstage and everyone was still out to dinner! Ultimately, the audience at most other conventions was made up of other indies, other label reps or the radio programmers who were already fans of the band. We wanted more for our artists. We wanted to make some magic.
2) Mercury Nashville’s Luke Lewis had this great little annual gathering for his Country radio folks each year. He would bring them all in to a beautiful location and have his bands play for them over the course of a lovely weekend. Once Mercury Nashville expanded to include Triple A artists, Chris Stacey invited us and some of our radio peeps to their cool event. As the result, we broke lots of records and enriched the relationships with the stations we were working with.
3) We had a client named Joe Zaum who managed a reggae band from the Turks & Caicos Island called Everyman. Joe said Madeleine and I could pick some of our favorite radio programmers and he’d fly them in to see his band. We all traveled on a rickety old school bus and saw Everyman play on a dirt field in the middle of the island with the locals! It was such an adventure!
Madeleine and I were inspired by our desire for a change and these beautiful events held the keys to an answer! It seemed ideal to create an environment where radio programmers relaxed at a beautiful resort and happily listened to great new music. It also took our business relationships to a personal, more human level. It became a great vehicle to connect with the people we worked so hard with day in and day out and a positive way for them to be totally open and focused on hearing new music!
We concluded that we could make a real difference to this process of breaking artists if we simply covered the expense of the stations who would attend, in exchange for their guaranteed attendance at the showcases. With this method, the artists would get the adventurous programmer audience they were seeking. They would get their “chance to be heard.” Those programmers who are still most passionate about new music could come to Sunset Sessions relaxed, happy to be in a beautiful place and open to discovering fresh and emerging artists. So we implemented this drastically different convention model, hoping to just get it to the point where it could sustain itself and break some new bands. And it worked — so perfectly, in fact, that now Sunset Sessions is the most attended Triple A convention of the year boasting the largest number of artists AND the greatest attendance of radio stations and music supervisors!
5. Tell us how the event has evolved over the past 13 years.
It’s changed a lot. From the Hard Rock Cafe in St. Thomas where we had 10 bands and less than 100 people (who got turned onto Susan Tedeschi and Francis Dunnery for the first time) to the magnificent white sandy beaches of Mexico, The Bahamas and Hawaii, where we fell hypnotically in love with Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Rosanne Cash, Ryan Adams, Pete Yorn, Five For Fighting, The Jayhawks, Edwin McCain and so many more. Now we are in beautiful southern California locations where we’ve been lucky enough to host James Blunt, Jewel, Chris Isaak, Third Eye Blind, Jason Mraz, Colbie Callait, Stephen Stills, Jamie Cullum and many others We now have over 30 artists in three days, well over 300 attendees … and we put together Triple A programmers with the most wonderful music supervisors from film and TV!
We work closely with KPRI, which broadcasts live from Sunset Sessions for about 18 hours over three days and nights. KPRI is so inspirational in their dedication to breaking new artists and we love coming up with new and clever ways to incorporate our businesses.
We’ve also started to create and host panels over the last few years of Sunset Sessions. They’ve turned into the most interesting sessions I’ve ever witnessed because they bring together sects of the music industry that don’t usually brainstorm with each other. There is always a theme of “how can we work together more synergistically so that our industry benefits, our artists benefit and ultimately we all more successful?” (And thank you, John, for your invaluable contributions to our Sunset Sessions Panels over the years. You are always so instrumental to them!).
6. Who are some of the bands you have lined up for this year?
Some of the artists I’m really excited about this year are Jason Mraz, NeedtoBreathe, One Eskimo, The John Butler Trio (playing Sunset Sessions for the third time in 13 years!), Tyler Hilton, Nikki & Rich, Bob Schneider, Lisa Bouchelle, Landon Pigg, Grace Potter, Maia Sharp, Edwin McCain and Carlos’ son Salvador Santana! We have some great brand-new indie bands right alongside the major labels’ top priorities.
7. The event now draws a large attendance from the Music Supervision community. Tell us more about that.
We began including the music supervisors six years ago and they have become such a wonderful and integral part of our event. The music supervisors get turned on to much of our format’s emerging artists because of their Sunset Sessions exposure. Inviting and hosting the music supervisors to attend is my way of giving back to the artists and the labels that support Sunset Sessions and Triple A radio. It affords artists the opportunity to get placements they may not have otherwise gotten. Having radio programmers and music supervisors together at the same intimate convention is a transformative melding of industry worlds. We’ve made many great new friends in the music supervision community and now have as many supervisors in attendance as we have radio programmers!
8. What does the future hold for the Sunset Sessions event?
I could see Sunset Sessions branching out into other formats — maybe an Alternative Sunset Sessions or a Hot AC Sunset Sessions, maybe even a Country Sunset Sessions — using the same model I have in place now of synergy and sponsorship to bring together the most progressive, adventurous tastemakers in each format, along with the music supervisors to gather in a beautiful location and make some magic!
9. What else are you doing these days?
Meg MacDonald and I are launching a new company called Quick Clear Music, which is a Google-type search engine for the music supervisors to find songs they need, quickly and easily. We’ve put an enormous amount of work into it thus far and will likely launch soon. I’ve also been working on a spiritual book about the Law of Attraction and Recovery and have spent a lot of time with my husband and kids traveling!
10. Fill in the blank: I can’t make it through the day without…
My spiritual practices: reading, writing, praying, meditating, affirmations and workshops. Today I’m able to find joy, appreciation and alignment in most situations, which for me is a whole new world!
What career path would you be following had it not been for this industry?
I probably would’ve had fun being an attorney. Either that or a dolphin trainer!
First Record Ever Purchased:
Genesis, “And Then There Were Three”
Genesis, for that same tour
Favorite Band Of All-Time:
I can’t say just one. I have to include Genesis, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Elton John, Francis Dunnery and maybe some Barbra Streisand, too!