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Danny "C" Coniglio - Top Dog!

Top National Record Promoter for Arista Records!

NAJM Dance Culture
Danny “C” Coniglio of Arista Records has won the “Best National Promoter for a Major Record Label” award at the Winter Music Conference, held in Miami, for three consecutive years! Promoting such artists as Whitney Houston, Deborah Cox, Toni Braxton, Aretha Franklin, Faithless, Lisa Stansfield, Monica, Puff Daddy and The Notorious BIG,  Danny plays an integral role between artist and a chart topping success. Danny recently spoke with NAJM about his role as national promoter for Arista Records.
NAJM: For our visitors who might not be aware of what you do, can you please describe to us the role a national promoter for a major record label plays?  

 

DANNY C:  I work very closely with Hosh Gurelli, who’s our Senior Director of Arista proper. He basically makes the music and contracts the remixers. It really begins with him putting the music together and choosing the various remixers.  After that’s all completed and I have a finished CD to work with, we try to get it to the right people, in essence, to get it on the radio. Club play is great, but in the big picture you don’t make any money unless you have the record on the radio. Club promotion, to me, is phase one of the many phases out there. It’s a building block.
NAJM: How long have you been in the business and when did you get your start?
DANNY C:  I started as an intern at Mercury Records working both Dance and hip-hop records. I’ve always been involved with hip-hop. I think that one of the things that sets me a part from a lot of the other dance promoters is that I work a lot of urban products. [Arista] is very urban intensive as well as our two joint venture labels; Bad Boy and LaFace. In order for me to get the job with Arista, I had to be well versed in dance music and hip-hop music. Not a lot of dance promoters can work hip-hop. I came from playing dance and hip-hop in a club and working them at Mercury.
NAJM:  Do you think that people who only promote dance or only promote hip-hop/urban pigeonhole themselves?
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Do what you love to do...

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DANNY C:  I think that each person needs to do what they love. If you love dance music then you should work it. If hip-hop, rock, or another genre of music doesn’t appeal to you, then I don’t think it’s a question of pigeonholing. I think it’s just doing what you like to do all day. I like to work dance and hip-hop records and I can do it all day. A lot people don’t like to work urban product, so they shouldn’t. I [also] think that people should expose themselves to more genres of music, because it should round you out as a person.  We all should know about things that don’t interest us, because you never know when you are going to have a conversation with a prospective boss and you will want to know how to answer his/her questions.
NAJM:  Who are some the artists that you have promoted?
dot_clear.gif (43 bytes) DANNY C:  Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston, Deborah Cox, Qkumba Zoo, Pink, Next, TLC, Kenny G, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Puffy, Biggie, 112, Faith Evans, Lisa Stansfield, Faithless, Robert Miles, Santana.
NAJM:  Quite a list.
DANNY C:  There are a lot more.
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Promotion 101...

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NAJM: What is your strategy when it comes to promoting a new break out artist?
DANNY C:  (Laughs). If I told you that, I probably would be letting the cat out of the bag!!
NAJM: Give us a hint.
DANNY C:  We have found a way at Arista to get records ignited to the point where WKTU just added a Deborah Cox record called “I Never Knew”. We got that record played with basically 30 CD burns and no 12-inch! That really says something about the music and about the promotion behind the music. We’ve pretty much come up with a system where we try to get DJ’s very excited about our music. We just keep doing it, going at it one right after the other. I wish I only had one or two records to work at a time, but there’s always fourteen. A DJ recently said to me “I played the Deborah Cox record last night” and I’m like “Great, what about this new artist that we have, Gigi D'agostino?”
NAJM: Is that a new Arista artist?
DANNY C: Gigi D'agostino is a producer driven project we signed from Italy. He is the hottest Dance music producer in Italy.
NAJM: How many projects do you work at any given time?
DANNY C: I have about ten priorities. In a perfect world we would be able to slow down and really work on them. Once you’ve worked at Arista you can work anywhere, you can’t say that about a lot of places. You usually go from working one or two projects to working five or six. Once you’ve worked at Arista, you’ve basically can work anywhere.
NAJM:  Do you follow a different strategy when it comes to promoting an established artist like Whitney Houston or Santana vs. a new act like Gigi D'agostino?
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Treat every record as an event...

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DANNY C:  Yes. The one thing that I have learned at Arista, and I learned it from our President, Clive Davis, is we treat every record as an event. Every record that we release is not just a release. We just don’t do a 12-inch or a dub, it has to be an event. It has to be tagged to something.  Recently, with Whitney Houston,  “The Greatest Hits” was completely linked to Whitney’s performance on the Arista 25 th. The Gigi D’Augestino is on the “Ultimate Dance Party 2000” and we’re using that as the launching platform.
NAJM:  So that is your strategy for making your releases stand out?
DANNY C:  [The single] always has to be tied into something where it cannot be perceived as just another 12-inch to a DJ. DJ’s get 500 12-inch records a week and something needs to be special about the record. I don’t think DJ’s have enough time to listen to all of the records [they get]. I think a lot of people tell DJ’s about good records. I’m a DJ too for 12 years now. That’s how I got into the business. I used to hate sitting there for six or seven hours listening to each 12-inch.
NAJM:  Hell of a lot easier to just read the review.
DANNY C:  Or you hear it in the club. Now that everyone has a CD burner and technology has become so efficient, everyone is burning CD’s for everyone else. Some DJ’s are playing songs simply based on suggestions from other DJ’s without even hearing it. I have DJ’s coming to my house to pick up CD’s and the first time they hear them is when they play them with 800 people in the room!
NAJM: Dance music is very track driven, how do you determine the balance of promoting singles vs. promoting the artist?
DANNY C:  We don’t put out track records [at Arista] we put out vocal records. The singles we put out have to have some shot at radio play. We don’t put records out just to put them out. Other labels may do that. I just don’t see the point of selling 3,000 units, moving to the next single, selling another 1,500 units and then moving on to the third and selling yet another 3,000 units. I don’t get it. Maybe it’s just a different frame of mind that I am in, but I firmly believe that in order for a single to be a success, it has to be sold as a single or on an album just to recoup the cost that we have invested in the process of putting it together.
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Money

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NAJM: What kind of money is at stake here?
DANNY C: I know of a specific instance where Jonathan Peters did a mix for a label, the record was genius, and Jonathan Peters doesn’t get $3,000 a mix! The mix never came out. That costs money, plus costs to mail it to DJ’s; press it, that sort of thing. So you’re looking at a $30,000-$50,000 investment [for a single] and not getting anything back because you didn’t put out the single and you couldn’t find it on the album.
NAJM:  Of all of the avenues available to you at a major label (with seemingly deep pockets), which promotional mediums do you find to be the most effective in promoting dance music?
DANNY C:  (Laughs). Deep pockets and Arista are not synonymous, despite what the public perceives! Trust me on that one! My last four or five records have been extremely difficult at getting outside help with. We just try to use all the resources that are available to us. Obviously, we do have budgets that we have to stay within. On the radio side there is absolutely a difference between and independent record label and a major as to getting radio play. But on the dance side, the playing field is pretty even with a major and independent. It’s all built on relationships. After I left Mercury I took a job with Maxi Records, which is a small boutique house label, and I was running records up and down the Billboard Dance chart! Maxi is not a Strictly Rhythm or a Groovilicious or a Twisted, but I was running records up and down the charts, so it really comes down the relationship between the promoter and the people that he is promoting.
NAJM: What is a typical budget for the promotion of a single?
DANNY C:  It’s never a fixed budget; there could be no money. It depends on what the scope of the project is: is it a set-up track, is it the track that we are going to radio with, is it something that we just want to put in the clubs months before we put it out?
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Run naked through the streets?

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NAJM: What is the single most creative or unusually resourceful thing you’ve done to promote a single or artist? Running naked through the streets?
DANNY C:  I basically have kept my clothes on (laughs). I don’t really think I have done anything unusual like painted my body, “Soy Bomb” or dressed like Tina Turner like Cary Vance did during the last two Winter Music Conferences. I think it’s very important for the artist to know what you are doing for them on promotional level and that they are not too big to go out and do what we do. Deborah Cox is a perfect example. She was the queen of the dance circuit at a certain point. She has the number one R&B record in the history of BDS with “Nobody’s Supposed to be Here” and as big as she was, she was doing clubs like Roxy, Twilo, and Bump. Whitney Houston did Gay Pride in New York last year. People have to know that dance records are an integral part of an artists profile. Pink is doing the same thing. Pink called me a few weeks ago and wanted to hook up dance shows for her to perform. She’s on tour with N’Sync. After she comes off [the stage] she wants to go and perform the dance mix at clubs in the market that she’s in. She knows that she’ll make money, and she knows that people who are at the club will buy the maxi. It’s another avenue for her to explore as an artist.
NAJM:  Cyndi Lauper was doing that a year or so ago when she was on tour with Cher. Has the Internet been as big of a promotional landfall for you at a major label as it has been for the independents?
DANNY C:  We formed an Internet division at Arista, everything from dance to pop, hip-hop. I haven’t myself fully explored the Internet yet. I hope to cut my hours from 18 hours a day to 12, which will give me some extra time to surf the net. I’m kind of an old fashioned guy. I’m not a fan of the MP3, Napster. I just want DJ’s to listen to the records I send them.
NAJM: What kinds of obstacles do you face when promoting an artist?
DANNY C:  Working at Arista, we have built up such a roster of known artists. I might have four or five records, three of which are by well-known artists like a Whitney, a Toni and a Deborah. Then comes a Gigi that no one knows. [As a promoter] I’m like “you’re playing Whitney, Deborah and Toni, but what about Gigi?” I want all four out of four. It’s difficult but we have to come up with creative ways to do it. Maybe we need to put them on a DJ tour like we did with Robert Miles. We come up with ways to make people realize what is going on. I feel with Gigi the “Ultimate Dance Party 2000” is a good launch pad for people to know what that project is about the CD.
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Success and the buzz that surrounds it...

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NAJM:  How do you gauge your success and realize that what your doing is working?
DANNY C:  Obviously you know your doing your job when the single sells after you put it out and people are calling your boss looking for it, and he doesn’t have it yet! I’m the first phase, sort of like the Marines on the beach. It is a feeling that you get inside when people are telling you that they are either hearing or reading about the track. Maybe they heard it inside the club. I listen to my co-workers and their feedback. Maybe they read about it in Source Magazine or in DMA. Arista publicity is amazing. [The people here] always circulate it around the building. I really gauge it to my co-workers and what they are feeling. Then the phone calls, and that whole thing.
NAJM: Geographically speaking, do you have predetermined demographic markets that you promote to?
DANNY C:  Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with geography. I go to the places that I have the best relationship and I keep going back. Whether it’s Miami, Houston, or Nashville. I can’t get caught up with location, because I have to build it up someplace. I have to be able to build it from where I feel confident, and that may be in other parts of the country.
NAJM: How instrumental are DJ’s and Record Pools to you?
DANNY C:  I really think that role of the record pool has changed over the last five or six years. I think that’s due completely to the change in radio. At this stage of the game, it is so difficult for a mix show DJ to play a record that’s not on the rotation list at a station. If that’s the case, what is a record pool going to do? I use record pools to cover my grass roots base to make sure that everything is taken care of on that level. As to how instrumental they are at getting the record on the radio, that’s a different story. I do think that pools cover the grass roots side of things that I don’t have the time to [cover].
NAJM: How do you work radio and nightclubs for promotional opportunities?
DANNY C:  It all depends on the artist. We wouldn’t work Pink the same way we would work Whitney. It’s all different. Sometimes radio doesn’t even want them.

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The changing face of radio...

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NAJM: You said earlier that Mix shows are what they used to be. What do you mean by that?
DANNY C: Radio is getting tougher and tougher to get singles even on a mix show! When I first started there was nothing known as “mix show rotation”! Now mix show DJ’s are getting very close with Programming Directors and they are coming up with ten or fifteen records that they have to play and a cannot deviate from that playlist.
NAJM:  What’s the point of that?
DANNY C:  I don’t know. They just play house mixes of N’Sync, Britney Spears and Lou Bega. It’s like get a grip!
NAJM: We correspond a lot with new and up and coming artists. What advice do you have for artists who want to promote themselves in this business?
DANNY C:  You should surround yourself with music people because there are not many music people in the music business. I’m going to take some slack for saying that, but there are very few. You need to associate yourself with music people. People who understand what a lyric is, what a song is and know that just a beat is not a song. You have to know who the leader is at label, where to go to make things happen. People need to understand the genre of music that they are in and work it. Obviously a carpenter knows how to build a house. Same thing in music. If I was an artist, I would know who the person at Strictly is, who the person at Arista and Universal are, and try to understand what they are. I answer my own phone and email. I’m totally accessible.
NAJM: What advice do you have for new independent labels starting out?
DANNY C:  Just put out great records, what you think is great music. It could be jungle, tribal, it could be the next thing. As long as you believe in it, put it out.
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