Interview with:

David DeKeyser

Radio Marketing Consultant

Tell us a bit about the career path that led to where you are now.

After five years (I DJ’ed a year after I graduated) at WZBC, Boston College’s college station, I moved to NYC and took a few retail jobs before finding a chance to work with the DIY venue Death By Audio. I was working on their very, very small label, helping with some press work, when a friend offered me the chance to take her internship at Mute. As luck would have it, they actually were hoping to fill the radio director position not too long after I joined. I had to wait a bit, but I took it over, working some amazing records (M83’s “Midnight City” was Mute’s first platinum record in about 20 years) for about four years. I found myself wanting to do more in music and was able to take the recommendation from a friend at Secretly Group to join them as a project manager. Pretty quickly into that job though, a colleague from CMJ reached out and told me that their new owner was looking to really revitalize the company and expand the approach the radio team had connected with their stations

So I took that job and for about six months, it was remarkable and exciting and an opportunity to do a lot of new, expansive projects with the company. But then, unfortunately, the owner stopped paying us. And so, we all sort of left, and the company slowly and cruelly died. I was, shall we say, connected to CMJ for a while longer, but right after I left, I had the opportunity to do more freelance work and try new things. Some were connected to radio, like the work I still do helping promote and plan for Spinitron and event producing the radio programming at 2017’s Mondo.NYC. I also took the opportunity to try non-music jobs, like digital marketing and event engineering. Clandestine came about when a college friend of mine, Gabe Birnbaum, released an incredible album with his band, Wilder Maker, and it came out on Northern Spy. I offered to jump back in the saddle and run a radio campaign for them. I found it rewarding to be in touch with stations directly again, and so Clandestine and I started a short term partnership (which just wrapped up) to help rethink and expand their radio department a bit more.

Clandestine was just one arrow in the quiver of what I do day-to-day but it’s made me understand that what I’ve loved most about radio is the actual radio side of it. The people and missions behind them and the communities they help represent. Right now I’m also helping NPR’s burgeoning noncomMUSIC Alliance, which is focused mostly on the music stations NPR represents, so I’ve been interviewing and writing about a bunch of them lately. So I’m in the mix of stations big and small, and it’s helped remind me why I’ve stuck with radio for so long.

Why does college/community radio matter in today’s fragmented environment?

I often think how the “does college/noncommercial radio matter” question doesn’t focus enough on the actual people doing radio. It understandably is thinking about the artists and labels that love and appreciate radio and their relationships to impact and discoverability. But what’s been clear to me since the first CMJ I went to as a college student is that college radio serves its best purpose as this place where people who think of music as a hobby or a broader interest can transform that feeling into this intractable part of themselves. It’s a place to connect to the social aspects of music, beyond your friends or even your scene, and see how so many others find their own relationships to it. Music obviously means a lot to most people, but radio gives this really specific and helpful framework to see how to make it actually a core part of their life. It’s what did that for me, and I see it from the 18 years olds just starting to the heads of music companies that began their careers at their college station. How college radio fits into the, I don’t know, “wider media landscape” is sort of a moot point for me. What is most important is that it’s the start of the path for a lot of people. It’s unvarnished joy and appreciation for music and artists and disconnected from the cynical gears that grind down a lot of people after even a few years into music or any sort of entertainment industry, and that’s something that’s irreplaceable nowadays.

What is your favorite experience you’ve had in your career? Perhaps a musical idol you got to meet? A festival you were able to attend? A project you were involved with promoting?

The work I did at CMJ, while short-lived, was some of the most rewarding and difficult work I’ve done in my life, because we set out to think about how we could actually help out more people and use our time and energy to connect the music industry and college radio a little better. We did a lot at once, probably too much, and could have done some of it better, but we packed a lot of ideas into those few months. The people I worked with at CMJ were incredible and I loved being a part it in that respect. Getting people from stations who had never come to a radio event before into the room with other students from other stations, mixing it up with bands and industry people was a chance to see what could become a real future for more people.

Beyond that though, I’ve had some great chances to work with artists. I convinced M83 to do an interview with Nardwuar because everyone should do an interview with Nardwuar. I set up a recorded interview with NPR and The Knife where the band sent back a pitch shifted recording that NPR sat on, confused, for nearly 9 months before publishing. I sat down and flipped thorough notebooks with Okkervil River’s Will Sheff that he made during touring around Black Sheep Boy, an album that got me through a really difficult time in my life. I’ve been really lucky to work with a lot of amazing people in that regard.

What band/artist or style of music outside the realm of college/community would people be most intrigued to hear you love?

I have had a musical sweet tooth for J-Pop since I was in middle school. I used to be super embarrassed by that fact. Throughout high school, I’d burn CD-Rs of anime theme songs and other J-Pop hits for personal mixes and I’d name them really esoteric things so no one wanted to randomly play them when flipping through my CD wallet. But both as I’ve sort of become more comfortable with my tastes and realized that “guilty pleasure” is a dumb concept, I’ve been more open about it. I’ve seen the electro pop trio Perfume three times now, and I’m considering the fourth since they have a show in NYC in the next few months.

What job do you think you would you be doing if you weren’t in this industry?

Well, the bulk of my week at this point isn’t actually doing music or radio work anymore. Even between all my music work, my actual full time job right now is with a digital marketing agency that focuses on the health industry. I found that a lot of radio deals with really granular data and means by which to experiment and play with how we report and act on it. Radio is a great sandbox to see how lots of different kinds of people engage with music and media and wider trends. So I took that kind of thinking and have found an interest in doing that in the realm of social media and other digital content. There’s a lot to the underbelly of the internet that’s almost sort of perverse and knowing how to use it, or at least understanding what it can do, means understanding how we’re all changing and thinking about our relationships to each other nowadays.

What destination would you most like to visit and why?

Berlin is one of those cities I think if I visited in college I would have moved to after I graduated. I had friends who did just that and I run through “what-ifs” time to time. I’d love to see more of it. I’ve been to East Asia a few times now, studied abroad in Tokyo, but never gone to Southeast Asia at all and have heard wonderful things.

You just won a million dollars. What are you going to do with it?

The very millennial thing I have to start with is: pay off all my debts. The music industry, for all its great excitement and opportunities, didn’t really pay all that well. Lots of vinyl at least! But I’d also take the chance to travel more, especially with friends. Having flown enough 15 hour flights as a 6’5” guy in coach, I’ve found a certain kind of fantasy in flying first class. And as much as I love living in NYC, there’d be something balancing about finding a small little place in the Hudson Valley to go and recharge every once in a while.

What is/are your current favorite TV obsession(s)?

The last show I got really immersed in was The Young Pope. I originally watched it because I mean… that’s a ridiculous name for a show, right? Literally I saw memes on Twitter and thought, “I have to see this show.” But I found it to be remarkably poignant and breathtaking. Sometimes I’d finish an episode and just stare off into the middle distance. How it uses music is also particularly powerful, especially with how it plays themes and cues and refrains. More recently I had a sort of emotional resonance of sorts watching the Fyre Festival docs (the Hulu one is so much better) in seeing a con-artist actually get his comeuppance. I also have been very invested into all seasons of Terrace House, which is basically Japanese Real World. I normally loathe reality TV, but there’s something so calming and earnest about it. Also, the Shion and Tsubasa arc is basically the most pure and heartwarming love story of our generation.

When friends come to town, what is your favorite restaurant you take them to?

There’s a Sichuan place that’s near my apartment called Birds of a Feather that is basically my go-to place for anyone looking eat in North Brooklyn. There’s something for everyone, with a pretty expansive menu. But I’ve had nearly everything on the menu because I was going almost once a week around when it opened. They know me and my girlfriend there at this point.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What five well known people (dead or alive) would you like to have there with you?

Haruki Murakami: He’s absolutely my favorite author and I just love the way he’s found this lyrical and plainspoken understanding of so much while also finding their relationships to writing and creating art.

James Baldwin: Baldwin understood America and really just human nature in such a sharp, incisive, commanding manner and was such a powerful writer and orator that I just would want to keep hearing his thoughts about every little thing that’s happen since he died.

Nardwuar: Again, everyone should be interviewed by Nardwuar. I could only hope to get to know how he finds the balance of overwhelming desire for knowledge and understanding without falling too far into obsession or fanaticism.

Ann Powers: Consistently the music critic whose writing I think about the most. I don’t agree with it all the time even, but that’s great. She’s intellectual and history-focused but also has this really rewarding holistic understanding of how music is made and how we listen to it.

Yoshimi P-We: Boredoms and OOIOO were two bands that really finally broke open the idea of what music could be for me and from what I’ve read and seen, Yoshimi has bit more focused and coherent approach to it than Eye does, so I’d love to spend time hearing her theories around all the music she’s made over the years.