Interview With:

Jenn Misko

The Band Mom

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

It all started when I discovered my own college’s radio station, WAKE Radio (Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC), where I began as a DJ and graduated as music director. Went straight from there to an internship which quickly became a job at Fanatic Promotion in NYC, where I learned the ropes of the promoter side of the phone call; after about a year there it was time to move on from that gig, which is when I started my own thing. My first add as The Band Mom (NYC pals Hidden People, to whom I’ll always be grateful for the push into doing this for real) was in February 2009, and I’ve never looked back!

Being a freelancer/sole proprietor as The Band Mom is awesome in many ways (being my own boss, setting my own schedule, only ever working with artists I actually personally believe in), but comes with its own set of challenges as well – one of which is that this work hasn’t quite been lucrative enough to support me as my only income (right now it’s close – it’s not a losing endeavor by any means – just not quite there yet). But that’s become a positive as well, since as a result I’ve also cultivated a secondary career in venue work/events production. I work at three performance venues in my current home of Seattle (managing, running social media, and working the door for venues that host music, comedy, burlesque and more), very occasionally produce live shows of my own, and have even gotten to work for a few of the area’s major summer festivals (Bumbershoot, Capitol Hill Block Party, Sasquatch, NW Folklife, Timber!). I also work for the Seattle International Film Festival each spring, occasionally work on film sets as a production assistant, and do some writing about film and music on the side when I can (available for hire on that front!). Basically I’m a bit of a jill-of-all-trades when it comes to music and film behind-the-scenes stuff, which is exactly how I like it! My schedule can be hectic, but it’s worth it to have such a full plate of a variety of work that’s all stuff I love.

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

College & community radio are still essential IRL hubs in many local music-fan communities across North America – both for music discovery and as social homes for the kind of loveable misfits and weirdos (and occasional normals) who are drawn to “alternative” (non-mainstream) music. I know my own college radio station helped me find and sharpen who I am as a person, both through the bands it introduced me to and through the learning experiences I went through, and that’s still happening at campuses all over the place. It’s a beautiful thing.

As for how I generally (and sincerely) answer this question from a biz angle when an artist to whom I’m pitching my services asks me: I really firmly believe (and have evidence) that it is one helpful aspect of what should be a multi-faceted approach that contributes to the snowball effect of increasing an artist’s visibility. It works well to complement an online/press PR push and touring when possible, adding one more aspect to a push to reach critical mass in the eyes of an audience who often needs to be reminded of an artist a bunch of different ways before they actually decide it’s worth paying attention to. A college radio campaign is not going to get anyone a platinum-selling record on its own, but it DOES have the potential to get/keep an artist’s name and music out there and visible in the minds of the kids (and adults) who consider themselves ‘tastemakers’ across North America, including in weird little pockets of the continent that a smallish artist might never otherwise reach. Often that results in superfans at a couple of stations in areas the artist wouldn’t have thought to care about previously, but who end up creating a market solid enough to think about starting touring in. Online fans – Twitter followers, Facebook fans, iTunes/Bandcamp purchasers – those people also can and do all totally come from hearing music on college radio, and those numbers adding up can be valuable in itself, as well. That snowball effect just keeps on growing – gathering positive press and attention can influence radio kids to play the music, and that also bounces the other way where gathering airplay raises awareness for the press people who pay attention as well as the kids who go to or even book shows (often those are different hats worn by exactly the same people, as well). Eventually snowballing into the average listener thinking, “I’ve heard of this artist 6 different ways in the last week, I guess I need to check them out.” Radio airplay is just one of those ways, an important piece of that puzzle.

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?

There are so many ways I’d like to answer this question it’s almost paralyzing. Speaking on panels at a few industry conferences sure has been gratifying and rewarding. I’ve gotten to promote some true heroes, a couple of my all-time favorite artists who I can’t believe allow me to be in their lives. I’ve also met all kinds of “idols”, between the radio stuff and my various venue jobs (sup Paul Rudd, Pete & Pete, Third Eye Blind, Sufjan, Flight of the Conchords, etc), and watching some of my longtime favorite bands (Wolf Parade, Jimmy Eat World, The Cure, St. Vincent, David Bazan) play huge sets from side- or backstage has often been the kind of treat that keeps me going. I’ve gotten to befriend many of my all-time favorite comedians through working their shows, as well. Booking and promoting my own shows has generally been super cool too – in 2012 I put on a show in an under-200-cap venue for my Austin pals Good Field (new record going for adds in February!), and David Byrne showed up!

Another awesome thing: in the fall of 2007, right after college when I was working at Fanatic, we were promoting the glorious Black Moth Super Rainbow when they went out on a short tour with the Flaming Lips. They weren’t hitting NYC (where I lived at the time), so a few of us made a field trip out of it and flew to Chicago to catch one of their shows. That trip was definitely a life highlight for me, and helped cement some friendships with people I love that continue to this day – both with those BMSR pals, and with their label, Graveface, with whom I’ve been lucky enough to have worked again a few times in recent Band Mom years (the Casket Girls in 2016 was one of my most successful Band Mom campaigns ever, hitting #15 right before CMJ died out and debuting on NACC’s Top 200 in its inaugural week)!

I also got to go on tour with one of my favorite bands/a group of my closest friends, the Terrordactyls, in the spring of 2008. I was managing them at the time, and have also done three radio campaigns for them and several more for many of their friends. That was absolutely a career and life highlight and was probably what planted the seed that eventually grew into my move to Seattle. I can’t speak fondly enough about those couple of weeks on the road. (Anybody out there looking for a short-term tour manager/roadie? I am DOWN)

Man, I knew it was either freeze up with option paralysis or tell way too many stories. I better stop there.

What band/artist outside the realm of college/community radio would people be surprised to hear you love?

I recently got over my embarrassment over admitting that one of my favorite bands, since I was about thirteen but also still today, is Third Eye Blind. I saw them four times in a very recent year of my life – once that I paid for in Seattle, once at SXSW, once at Bumbershoot, and once as a +1 guest of the opening band in Spokane. I didn’t mean to go THAT big with it, but that’s life, man. I still love Third Eye Blind.

What job do you think you would you be doing if you weren’t a promoter?

Probably something with film, either in production or writing (criticism or possibly screenwriting). Lucky for me, I’m living a best-of-all-worlds scenario where I already get to do some of that as well! Living my best life out here.

Do you think college/community radio will ever actually be an all-digital format? And if so, when?

I do think it’s coming, but change is so slow. I couldn’t guess when. Ten years ago (when downloads were just starting to become an important part of the servicing mix) I would’ve said by now, and today we’re not even close. But there are more stations than ever who do prefer digital to hard copies, and less than ever who flat-out refuse it, and between how much more economical digital servicing is for the artists/promoters/labels and how increasingly digital our whole world is becoming, I do think that hard copies will eventually become obsolete. The main barrier I think is just stations’ infrastructure, and the fact that many are operating on shoestring university or fund-drive budgets that just don’t have any wiggle room to upgrade their equipment to the kind of computers and servers that a digital library requires – but it seems clear that sooner than later, this is going to be seen as a necessity more than a luxury.

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

First pay off all my debts, and then buy a house and a new car (functional, not fancy; my dream car’s a Prius). With Seattle’s housing market that’s probably realistically the end of the list, but I’d like to have a percentage of my winnings set aside too to hook up friends & family who’ve been helping me out all my life, and then some deserving nonprofits & charities, especially those that support the arts (particularly women/POC/LGBTQIA+ folx in the arts) and/or push back against the indignities being showered upon the world by our current political administration. This answer got heavy fast.

What is/are your current favorite TV obsession(s)? What was your favorite movie of 2017?

I think my first answer’s gotta be Twin Peaks: The Return (see photo, just taken last week at the real-life RR diner just outside of Seattle). Hellllloooooo!! Other recent bigtime favorites have been Love, One Mississippi, iZombie, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bob’s Burgers, and Bojack Horseman. Gonna stop there because this is a subject I could talk about all day, but I’ll eventually have a long list of this kinda thing up on my website; I tend to do that unreasonably late each year. I haven’t 100% settled on what my #1 favorite movie of 2017 was, but I can tell you my top 3 are Get Out, Lady Bird, and Gook.

If someone came to town, what is your favorite restaurant you’d take them to?

I mean, probably that Twin Peaks diner I was just talking about (its real name is Twede’s). There’s a pho place in Tacoma called Pho 38th that serves my favorite fried rice ever (shout out to Kayla, former KUPS MD and Sub Pop intern for introducing me to that hidden gem). If we’re sticking to the city limits of Seattle, there’s an Indian pizza place that makes a shahi paneer calzone which I find pretty thrilling.

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

– Greta Gerwig (I just think she’d be endlessly interesting and I really feel like we’d Get each other, y’know?? She’d be on my team)

– Sunny Balzano (RIP, the til-recently proprietor of Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Maybe this stretches the definition of “well-known” but I met him just once because he was a public figure, at a benefit show at one of my jobs when his bar was decimated by Hurricane Sandy, and when I was trying to think of what known person I could picture as having the purest spirit, just radiating light and love, he’s who came to mind. He’d keep us together and sane on that island.)

– Neil deGrasse Tyson (he’s full of interesting stories and factoids, might even have the practical knowledge to use the stars to navigate us off that island, plus I just like his goofy dad-joke presence)

– Carrie Brownstein (she can do anything. We need her)

– Jake Gyllenhaal (uh – I’d rather not say why)