NATIONAL RECORD PROMOTION
by Jonathan Widran
A veteran record producer and artist manager who hit number one with Michael Damian’s 1989 cover of the David Essex hit "Rock On," Larry Weir dove headfirst into independent record promotion when he realized that some of the promotion companies he was hiring had less than-honest business practices.
"I became disenchanted with the way they were treating us," say Weir, who runs National Record Promotion with Masika Swain, but who continues to do production projects with his brother, engineer/producer Tom Weir. "We would get a report from a promoter who would say they talked to such and such a station. Then we’d call the programmer of that station and be told they never heard from the promoter. We started making calls on our own and realized that was the way to get the job done."
Weir and Swain work many different formats, from Adult Contemporary and Top 40 to Triple A, and specialize in working with small indie labels that don’t have in-house promotion staffs. Weir and Swain have also been hired by majors like Atlantic to break as like the Boxing Gandhis, and larger indies like Windham Hill. NRP has also secured airplay for indie artists like Taj Mahal, Billy Vera, Janis Ian and Sharonmarie Fisher. They are now gaining multi-format adds for "Sweet Summer Days," the new Peabo Bryson-Ray Obiedo single on Windham Hill.
Masika Swain & Larry Weir
Though only a two person staff, Weir and Swain work so effectively in tandem - starting at 6 a.m. daily so as to service the East Coast first thing in the morning that radio programmers sometimes believe NRP is larger than it is. "Masika and I usually split the stations down he middle, depending on the project," he says. "But sometimes, our lists cross and for really important projects which crossover into various formats, we double team them.. If I hit them Monday, Masika will call Tuesday, and so forth. The clients who hire us receive maximum coverage."
Upon contracting a project, Weir and Swain sit down and discuss strategies and formats, and come up with the best places to target. Not surprisingly, they have greater success pushing non-major label product in the smaller markets where programmers tend to be more ambitious and open-minded to good material, regardless of the clout of the record company.
"If a great song is on some totally unknown label, sometimes magic will occur with people on those small town stations," explains Weir . "It’s gratifying to get an act played on a small station and watch the fan response when the band comes through and plays that area. Some of the major labels have A&R guys who scour playlists on theses small stations, looking to snatch up indie bands who are crating a buzz. Sometimes indie bands sign to major based on this grassroots approach."
Success in the promotion world relies on working strong songs, but it’s all about the relationships that it’s all about the relationships that folks like Weir develop with those programmers. "One of the great joys of this job is how fascinating it is to talk to people all around the country, sharing tidbits of my life, hearing tidbits of theirs, learning about things we usually don’t know about living in a major city like L.A.," he says. "This is business, but we are people first. So, we talk about those things, and then at the end, they might ask me about my band Neutron Cafe on Photon Records. They tell me they’ll listen and see if it works.
"Sometimes, those small town folks are also fascinated with what goes on in major cities, and as a result, I send out a Friday fax with information on not only my artists, but gossip from Hollywood. In this business, you have to figure out ways to break the ice and get people as excited about the artists as you are."
National Record Promotion was started in the spring of 1995 by Larry Weir and his partner, Masika Swain.