Infectious Magazine recently had the pleasure of interviewing Angelo Dodaro, Vice President of Zedd Records and Director/Head Social Media Strategist with Top Dog Social Media. We discussed how he got started in the music business, what makes a great networking profile, advice for students aspiring to work for a record label, and much more.
Hi Angelo, thanks for taking some time out to answer a few questions! To start off, can you tell us a little about your background and how you initially got involved with Zedd Records?
Like most people in the music business, I got started as an artist. I’m a guitarist, singer/songwriter and producer but also an entrepreneur. I’ve spent many years studying production and audio engineering, managed to work with some Juno-nominated acts on my own as an engineer and overall been obsessive about the art of making great records.
I was running a social media marketing company (and still do) when I first met president of Zedd Records, Mark Zubek. I knew I wanted to work with a more experienced producer to learn the ropes while simultaneously working on my own songs to work towards an EP that competes with hit-radio.
Mark and I had a total blast writing our first song together and became good friends through the production process. Even though he was already doing as many songs per month/year as he could handle, that meant taking on a lot of non-musical tasks that ate up a lot of his time. Now he can focus on music 100% while allowing me to take over an area well within my expertise so we can start moving to the next level.
As the Vice President of the label, what does a typical day of work involve for you?
Smoking the finest Cuban cigars while drinking scotch (neat) on the back of my yacht.
In all seriousness, it’s a lot of emails, content creation for our blog and podcast, social media management, organizing workshops, coordinating strategic partnerships within the industry and lots of other boring stuff.
The fun part comes when I help Mark co-produce tracks. Unfortunately I don’t always have as much time to help as I want but I see that changing as our team grows.
What is the most common mistake you see bands make when trying to contact the label and how can they rectify it?
Everybody wants something for nothing. If you’re going to reach out to somebody – whether it’s an agent, manager, record label or any industry professional – you have to consider what you have to offer them. It’s disappointing to see how many artists still hold on to the fictional rock star persona before they’ve created something of value to offer anyone.
Nobody is going to come and offer you a contract that’s going to change your life overnight with no work. You have to build something tangible which means already having a solid fan base, hit-quality songs and productions already getting buzz, etc.
An increasingly popular trend right now is the rise of obscurely named subgenres – witch house, vaporwave, and slowcore to name a few. From a marketing standpoint, do you think it helps or harms an up-and-coming band to label themselves under obscure genres rather than more conventional ones like rock, pop-punk, etc.?
If you’re having a conversation with someone in your exact target market and they don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re in trouble. If these artists put half as much creativity into their music as they did in naming their sub-genre, we’d have a lot more good music out there!
Along with your work with Zedd Records, you’re also the Director and Head Social Media Strategist with Top Dog Social Media. Both companies feel similar in that they don’t just exist to work with clients, but also to educate them. When it comes to building your name brand – regardless of your line of work – what is the most important lesson that can only be learned in the real world (meaning, outside the classroom)?
Good observation. I’m a HUGE believer in education-based marketing as a way to build credibility and bring you closer with your perfect audience.
The most important lesson to be learned in the real world is that you can spend all the time you want connecting with the who’s who and keeping up with the Joneses but at the end of the day it’s what you bring to the table to generate real RESULTS that matters. Talk is so disgustingly cheap and the music industry is bursting at the seams with it.
ACTION turns heads faster than anything else in any business, this one especially. Do you have one more fan today that loves you enough to spend money on your music, merch, live shows then you did yesterday? That’s the only question that matters when building your career from the bottom.
With each passing year, it seems like younger folks have more opportunities to network themselves online and meet new people than ever before. What is an essential profile-building step that all students should take advantage of at an earlier age?
Fully complete your social media profiles and always look like a bigger deal than you actually are. This means having a professionally taken picture, custom-designed cover photos, a call-to-action driving your target market back to your website, etc.
It’s crazy how many artists are dropping the ball here.
A currently hot topic in social media is the fast-rising popularity of Ello, which launched earlier this year. What are your impressions on the Ello experience in general and do you think it can/will become an essential networking tool for artists?
I’ve been keeping a comfortable distance from any new social networks. When you’ve been in the social media marketing world a few years, you get more selective about the trends you hop on and the ones you let pass. I think anything that provides value and fills a need will be successful. Whether or not Ello fits the bill is yet to be seen.
Back in August you did an excellent podcast about the mistakes bands often make in social media marketing, including advice on figuring out your target market and how to attract them. One point I especially liked was the importance of putting a well-done (and properly titled) cover video on YouTube. For bands that are planning to do this, do you find it’s more beneficial to stay close to the song’s original version or to rework it significantly? Or does it just depend on what the band is most comfortable with?
It’s a matter of what the artist is comfortable with but also if they have a clever idea that takes a truly unique and interesting spin on it. Being different for the sake of being different can be a misguided venture but beautiful when it comes from a place of authenticity.
Stay true to who you are and have fun. People are drawn to that.
Continuing along YouTube lines, the company recently rolled out its brand new “Music Key” streaming service, which charges users $10 per month for ad-free and offline usage. There’s been plenty of debate on the reception from users and the royalties for the industry’s biggest artists, but how do you think the landscape will change for indie artists and, more specifically, Zedd Records artists?
Streaming is a red-hot debate for artists right now. I think that independent artists can’t afford to close doors on certain opportunities the way mega superstar artists like Taylor Swift, for example. The royalties are garbage right now and until we find something everyone can agree on, we’re stuck with a broken system.
Fortunately, I believe there is more great music than ever before. Sometimes it’s tough to see that when there is so much more noise around it. People can’t live without music so something eventually has to give. If I made a prediction I’d likely have to put my foot in my mouth in 2-3 years and that’s not an appealing thought.
What major changes, if any, do you see coming in the music industry in the next 5-10 years? What is one change you’d particularly like to see?
A viable business model for streaming and fair compensation for songwriters. People enjoy consuming content this way, we just need to find a way to make it work for the content creators too.
For young folks hoping to have successful careers in the music industry one day, how important is it to utilize LinkedIn and do you have any tips for doing so properly?
LinkedIn is key if you want to network with the industry. I’ve made some great connections and started successful partnerships with a LinkedIn message. Just make sure you always lead with the value you can provide when reaching out to others. Don’t focus on what they can give you, it’s about how you can help them and their goals.
More specifically, do you have any advice for readers who hope to work at a record label after they graduate?
Mark says something that has stuck with me: “You have to be too stupid to quit.” I think that’s the truth. Being in the music business is like a blessing and a curse because you simply CAN’T do anything else, even if you wanted to. I’ve tried to get away but I keep coming back!
My biggest tip is to bring a skill set outside of music. There are so many talented musicians out there, it’s not at all uncommon. The reason I got the opportunity to join Zedd Records is because I had a background in marketing and was competent enough to deal with clients. It’s really nothing extraordinary but most people try to break in offering to get coffee and stuff like that but there isn’t really much value in those positions and they don’t give you an opportunity to show what you can do.
Understand what that record label is trying to accomplish and get obsessed with finding solutions to those problems. We turn down 99.999% of the people that reach out for work, even if they offer to work for free. The people we have said yes to are the smart and fearless hustlers.
Thanks again for taking some time out of your day to do this! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t forget why you do this…you love music. You can never lose that spark that brought you to music in the first place. It’s easy to get hung up on how to attract record labels, get radio play, land licensing deals but your job is to create music that connects with listeners and leaves an emotional impact on them. Don’t even think about marketing, record labels or pursuing management until you’ve got that under control.
Once you’ve got great songs, work with a producer that has a proven track record for getting real results for artists and creating music that competes with hit-radio. If your goal isn’t to be successful in the music business then do whatever you want but if you want to make a career, focus on what matters most: songs and productions that connect with your listeners.
To learn more about Angelo and Zedd Records, check out the Toronto-based label’s official website and be sure to read Owner Mark Zubek’s excellent free e-book titled “The Indie Artist’s Guide To A Successful Music Career”.