It takes a whole team, so it would seem in order to have a successful career in the Texas Music Scene. Often times important people are working very hard with artists to help them achieve their goals. A good philosophy is to have “everyone’s boat float”. I know someone that fits the bill. I had a chance to speak with Dillon Steen about his work. Read more after the jump.
What made you decide to get involved in the Texas Music Scene?
Well see what happened was…I was drunk and it was the day my Mom got out of prison hahahaha Just kidding!!! To be honest with you….me being in the business at all came out of pure happenstance of helping a friend….and he was in no way in the Texas music scene…in fact not in Texas or the USA at all…but I landed him a gig stateside when he came to visit his parents and he spouted off “Damn Dillon you did good…you should do this for a living!”….well the rest is history. As far as what made me want to be part of the Texas Music Scene though….it was born a bit of my rebellious nature I guess. I’ve always loved music…all different genres…and there always seemed somebody ready to help the “big guy” but never enough people wanting to help the “not a big guy”…and I knew Texas was just overflowing with talent from folks that had never been noticed. I have sat in many many a dive bar and heard some of the best music ever…sadly from names you will never know. So I thought dammit somebody needs to give those names a voice…somebody needs to be the one that believed in them….and that is what I try to do and the philosophy I have built my company around.
What is the process for selecting an artist to work with?
Well it can vary depending on whether we will be working with you on the booking side of the business or on the radio side. Not many variances but some. However I don’t know that there is a “process”…on the booking side we all listen to a band and talk about the sound, the performances, what kind of reputation do they have as far as being professional to work with etc….and no I don’t mean “professional” in the manner of well they had to have traveled at least 30 states…I mean professional as in do they show up on time or early, do they promote themselves and their shows, do the treat the venue people and the fans with respect, etc. etc. etc….all really just basic common sense stuff. I rely heavily on my two agents to give me their true feel on the artist(s)…because ultimately it is they who have to book them…I do no booking myself anymore although I do stay in the process and loop daily. Now on the radio side…the decision is all on me. An artist will come to me with a song and the big thing for me is…is it a good radio song? There are TONS of good songs out there…but that does not mean those songs will work on radio. It’s really odd but some of the best fire up the crowd at live shows songs don’t work on radio….it’s like you just can’t transfer that magic from live to recorded. So is it a good radio song is the first thing I ask myself. Then again it comes down to the artist…are they professional…are they driven….will they dig in their heels and do everything I ask them to do and more? Will they do more than I ask them to do just because they have that fire in their belly? Truthfully also, attitude, trust and personality is big for me on both sides of the business. Some artists don’t understand that I have to believe in you and the song…I put my name on that product also stating that I believe in it….so I have to…. Trust is hard in this business and I know it takes a lot for them to trust me also….so that really needs to be a gut feel and one you believe. I’ve had my trust used on me a couple of times but I’m human too and damn sure not perfect.
Who was your “gateway” artist? In other words, what artist was the first one for you to fall in love with OKOM (our kind of music)
Wow…seriously…I don’t know..there were so many bands I loved when I was younger in those bars that I don’t even remember the name of…hell I didn’t know it was OKOM…I just knew it was good music.
What is it about the Underdog that motivates you to work so hard, besides the fact that I’m almost positive he’s your favorite cartoon character only second to Fog Horn Leg Horn and Bugs Bunny?
Funny enough he is not my most favorite cartoon character…Snoopy is….I always wanted to be Joe Cool haha. Underdog though just fit at the time that I started using that mantra a lot. Here I was, an unknown myself in the radio promotion world, and I was pushing basically unknown artists. I don’t mean unknown to their fan core but to the “big picture” and definitely to the radio world. Underdog always came from behind and with tons of doubters…but he always came out a winner…one way or the other. The motivation is right there….you’ll always have your doubters but if you believe in yourself and you work hard…you’ll always come out a winner one way or the other.
You work with your wife Brenda, how do you each motivate each other and who gets the “final say so”?
Well Brenda does not work with me 100% of her time….she is also the business manager at our local newspaper in town. We had hoped we would be able to pull her into this business full time but it hasn’t worked out that way quite yet. Here at Steen Entertainment she is in charge of the media services division and has one part time employee working for her there, she is the business manager and the keeper of the dollars and pennies…and she doesn’t miss anything. When it comes down to “final say so” though…the truth is really she lets that be me…because I work in the business 24/7 and I have been the one neck deep in it from the beginning. So the final always comes down to me…but I would not even be in this business had it not been for her support.
Tell me briefly what a typical day in the life of Dillon Steen looks like?
Wake up, scratch, go to bathroom…hahahahaha! Seriously, there is no “typical” day….lots of phone calls, lots of promotion, lots of scheduling, checking in with artists, trying to find other stations to send the music to for consideration for air play, communicating with the booking side and the media services side…etc. etc. etc.
What are the biggest challenges about radio promotion?
Open doors. Flat out that is the biggest and most frustrating damn challenge. I see too many doors that will NOT open to the up and coming artist. That and the limitations at times…”well I can spin it once it is in the Top 50″…well if you’ll spin it now it will get to the Top 50 quicker haha. “Great song but they don’t have a following here or don’t play shows here”…hey give them a little bit of radio time and they can build a following and have a better chance at booking a live show in that area. 95% of my time spent in radio is great…but that other 5% can have me banging my head on the desk at times.
Without naming names, what’s the strangest situation you’ve found yourself in?
Hmmmm….I don’t know that I have had a “strange” one. Had a few that caught me off guard but not because they were strange but because I trusted someone I should not have….but I don’t think I can label anything strange…well other than myself of course lolol.
What has been the “highlight of your career” so far?
You know…I bet everyone is going to think it is the only #1 I have promoted so far. If you had asked me in 2013 that would have been true. Maybe a #1 should be the highlight of my career but it isn’t any more. Not saying that I don’t want to hit #1 a whole helluva lot more times…but I guess I just look at things a bit different now. The highlights come for me now when I get a message from an artist that says “damn Dillon I respect how hard you work” or a message from an artist that says “I may never hit the chart but damn this has been a lot of fun”…a Program Director telling me “you’re growing with your artists Dillon and you are doing it right”….and the biggest highlight is the one thing you think would not be elusive but is at times just because of oversights…but the “thank you” is the highlight of my day any day.
Who has been a major influence on your business ethics?
Gonna sound crazy…but I would say my Grandmother. She was all about working your ass off. No matter what job you do…from being a Corporate CEO to being a honey dipper…you do every job to very best of your ability no matter what. So I would say her and the fact I just believe we should treat people right. We won’t always get along with people, we won’t always agree…but the basic thought to treat each other right should always be there.
What was the first concert you went to and which was your last?
Bob Seger at Reunion Arena in Dallas was my first “big” concert…hell I was in bar rooms all my life so there were many bands I had seen before then but that was my first big one. Which was my last concert?? Hell I haven’t gone to it yet hopefully! ha!
Finally, if you could give advice to a new artist getting started in radio promotion, what would you tell them and why?
Get ready for disappointment, get ready for hard work and lots of frustration, get ready for the fact that not 100% of the people will like your music…it’s just a fact. Most of all though I tell them to believe in themselves and believe in their music…if your song only gets spun on radio 1 time then that is 1 more time than it was the day before and you have no clue how many people heard YOUR music. Be prepared for the worst…hope for the best…and always hold your head high.