Above: Esperanza Spalding won two of Concord's eight Grammy wins (Photo: FilmMagic).
Concord Records was the Grammy's leading label winner this year, picking up eight nods -- and it wasn't a fluke. Traditionally, Concord is one of the leaders in Grammy nominees, picking up over 20 nominees this year and last and some 37 nominees in 2005. This year, Concord's Grammy winners, included: Paul McCartney; Gary Burton and Chick Corea; Esperanza Spalding, Arturo Sandoval. the Steep Canyon Rangers and the late-Ray Charles (whose compilation album won best album notes). Biz spoke with Concord’s president and CEO Glen Barros and chief marketing officer and president of Concord's Prestige Group Gene Rumsey about the label's secret to success, the range of their post-Grammy sales bumps and working the "underserved" adult market.
Billboard.Biz: Is this year's eight-Grammy wins Concord's best Grammy showing?
Glen Barros: We had seven last year, so this was definitely a step up. Eight years ago [in 2005] we had the wonderful Ray Charles night. But that was before they reduced the number of Grammy categories, so we had 37 nominations and we had nine Grammy wins: eight of them were for Ray and the label won one more. And of course, we got the big Grammy categories that night. A funny thing about that night, Ray had 10 nominations but he could only win 9 at most because he was competing against himself in one category. And the only one that I was sure he would win turned out to be the one he didn't get. [He was nominated for best traditional R&B vocal performance for "I Can't Stop," which he sang with B.B. King.] How could you vote against Ray Charles and B.B. King? But Prince won.
Concord used to be a jazz label but for the last decade your label had become much more genre diverse, yet you still appear committed to jazz, how do you maintain that balance?
Glen Barros: It’s maintained by the label teams we have. Through our acquisitions, we have the Rounder team focus on bluegrass, roots and Americana, and they got us our country nomination this year. We have our flagship jazz label and we have what we call our Fantasy team, which consists of Hear Music and Stax brands as well and focuses on our larger, more pop oriented releases like Paul McCartney.
Gene Rumsey: The fact that we are winning in these other categories beyond jazz isn't an haphazard accident. We are sticking to a plan to focus on the adult market, which we feel is underserved. We have a handle on that market and we have expanded the musical range but we stay true to focus on that customer.
Glen Barros: Also, we try to maintain a really high quality, timeless feature to all the music we issue. We are kind of happy with the ratio we have among the genres, which helps us bean indie label with around a 1% market share. Its a testament to the great artists we have and the great team we have at the label that help make these records a success.
Chick Corea (left) and Gary Burton picking up one of their two Grammy Awards (photo: FilmMagic)
You get sales bumps as winners, but your label isn't usually the beneficiary of the bigger sales bumps that the performances on the Grammys bring. When are the Grammys going to let Esperenza Spaulding play, instead of just walking up to claim her Grammys?
Glen Barros: I wish I could answer that. We have seen reactions when she sang on TV like at the Academy Awards when she sang "What A Wonderful World" during the memoriam segment. The reaction was "who was that" and after the commercial the host announced her name, but it wasn't a track that was on her record.
The think is with Esperanza, she is still pretty jazz oriented, which can be a tough sell in the context of prime time television. We sure would like to see her go up and win Grammys though.
How will you capitalize on these awards?
Gene Rumsey: We saw increases with iTunes and Amazon and a immediate sales result even on a Sunday night. In the Amazon movers and shakers, we had the No. 3 position with Stone Canyon, No. 4 with Chick Corea, No. 5 with the Time Jumpers (Grammy nominees), No. 7 with Esperanza Spalding and No. 10 with Arturo Sandoval.
With all visibility and social activity and engagement around the Grammys, we can do a lot of immediate online pricing promotion and marketing. Also, at physical retail, we are in the Universal Music Group pre-Grammy campaigns so they were already priced like they were going to be winners.
We want to sell more music and this gives us an opportunity to do that. The artists do their part by making great albums and now we have to do our part and sell more of them.
What’s the relationship with Heads Up, Esperanza Spalding's label, and Hear Music, which I think is a joint venture with Starbucks?
Glen Barros: We bought Telarc Records in 2005 and Heads Up was a label that they had previously bought so when we got Telarc we got Heads Up. Hear Music is a brand we use when we released records that are generally marketing with Starbucks. It was a joint venture but now it is a co-marketing concept with Starbucks.
We still do records with them and talk to them about what makes sense for them and then we put those records together. We did a multi-artist record that was a tribute to Fleetwood Mac. Paul McCartney started on that label and has joined us. His catalog is doing extremely well with us. The next reissue will be Wings Over America, which will have a spectacular package.
For the Ram, release, we came out with two different vinyl releases, one in mono and one for the high-end market and we were surprised at the strength of the mono-release, which did two-thirds of the more than 12,000 vinyl copies we sold on that title.