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UMG'S VALUATION NEARS $55B
Day one begins. (9/23a)
SAVE THE DATE: GRAMMY NOMS REVEALED 11/23
Whoa, that's early. (9/21a)
A HARD DAY’S
HITS LIST
Stars across the board (9/21a)
NEAR TRUTHS:
THE LUCIAN DECADE
A history lesson from I.B. Bad (9/23a)
SIR LUCIAN TURNS IT UP
As UMG goes solo, Grainge discusses leading the band. (9/20a)
HITS' 35TH ANNIVERSARY
A chronicle of the inexplicable.
GRAMMY: ALBUM OF THE YEAR
We make yet more predictions, which you are free to ignore.
2022 TOURS
May we all be vaxxed by then.
ROCK'S NEW CHAPTER
Power pop, global glam and the return of the loud.
Music City
NASHVILLE'S NEW WAVE:
MELANIE WETHERBEE
7/19/16

RED LIGHT MANAGEMENT

Melanie Wetherbee left the suburbs of Boston to study the recording industry in Nashville. She got her industry start in publicity, moving over to McGhee Entertainment, where she wound up doing day-to-day management for Darius Rucker. A couple years after, she moved to Red Light, where she manages Jon Pardi.

How is breaking an artist like Jon different than other acts?

Observing the Darius transition into country, and being a part of that, was a valuable learning experience. Watching the initial resistance to his transition was really interesting; seeing him break through, and become the first act from another genre to have a full-fledged career as a country artist, wasn’t an overnight thing. He worked for it.

I speak of that only because, although a very different scenario, I think it’s always the same for people in their own lanes, artistically speaking—you have to fight for it. I think Jon was seen as almost “too country” when his first record came out, especially compared to where the genre was at the time. He was raised on ’90s country, and it’s blatantly obvious when you listen to his music. Jon wanted to wear a cowboy hat from day one—and believe it or not, there was quite the battle over him wearing that hat.

But Jon didn’t waver. He rides and ropes, and when he’s home he can often be found on his tractor. Jon’s distinctly his own brand, and I don’t think there’s anyone else in the genre truly like him. We are building a career on who Jon is, not just based on a song. Guys want to be Jon Pardi, and girls want to date him. I think that’s rare within this genre these days, and he gained that audience simply by being true to himself. He’s a guy’s guy, and people believe it. 

What’s your biggest frustration with “That’s how things are done,” and how have you gone against the grain?

When I first started working with Jon as part of his management team with Charlie Walker/C3 and Coran Capshaw/RLM, he hadn’t had a real hit yet. I’ve heard over and over again that “you just need a hit,” or “you can’t really do anything until you have a hit,” and I’ve never accepted that. Of course you need a hit, but what you do in the meantime is what builds a strong foundation for when you finally have that hit. You keep your head down and keep moving forward, build socials, work on better routing, look for ancillary income, grow into better clubs and money as you sell out the places you played previously, adjust ticket prices accordingly, continue to build relationships and allies at radio, etc.

Delving into the information we did have—history of touring, capacities, ticket prices, promotions, where his music was selling, where his airplay was greatest—and making sure we hit those places at the right time and within the proper routing, to me that’s what management is. It’s about evaluating and then reevaluating, and adjusting accordingly. It’s a lot of McGyvering it in the early stages of a career. What Jon had, from all the touring, was a fanbase that was dedicated. So we built on that. But the mentality that nothing can really be done until you have a hit? That, I think, is bull. I still think the old-school way—word of mouth, sticking to and creating a brand with an artist, and touring intelligently—these are still the building blocks needed to build the foundation for a lasting career, hit or no hit out of the box.