Nashville-based Q Prime South and its six-person staff, led by manager John Peets, has achieved the rare feat of having two artists — Eric Church and the Black Keys — simultaneously top the charts at two radio formats this week for the second time this year.
Eric Church’s “Springsteen” is currently the number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and the Black Keys’ “Gold On The Ceiling” is the number one song on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. The same week in January 2012, “Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys and Church’s “Drink In My Hand” topped the charts in the acts’ respective formats.
Both acts are also headlining in earnest for the first time this year, and the artists are not only different from each other in terms of format, but also are unique among their respective genres. Church is an outspoken country hell-raiser who built much of his base through rock clubs, and the Black Keys are a two-man rock band consisting only of guitar and drums.
Q-Prime South’s John Peets
So, besides Peets and Q Prime South, what do these two acts have in common? Peets says the fact that neither could be viewed as “traditional” acts for their genre has turned into a plus. “There’s some kind of appeal on a level that they’re a little bit the opposite of those [acts] who are chasing things,” Peets tells Billboard. “Both of these acts do music for themselves, they sound like themselves, and there’s nobody great that I can think of that sounds like anybody else. To creatively cut your own path may take longer, but if you keep at it, and things line up, it comes to you.”
The fact that these acts aren’t cookie-cutter by any stretch means management also has to forge its own path in steering these careers. “There’s no one thing, there’s a million little decisions, and you have to really apply a very unique, clear mind to each one, ‘this is what works for the Black Keys, this is what works for Eric,'” Peets explains. “Almost everything that’s known is kind of pushed aside as we’re faced with new challenges. This is driven by philosophy and understanding the artists at a deep level more than any kind of experienced-based, ‘this is how it’s done’ approach.”
The high-profile touring both acts are doing this year, which includes headlining and strategic festival appearances, helps drive their success, Peets says. “It’s a little bit of a bottom up versus a top down approach,” he says. “There’s demand that bubbles under, there’s pride in radio stations being able to participate in shows and help present those shows.”
While the success is happening simultaneously, the paths are as different as the characteristics of rock and country radio and how singles are promoted in those realms. “It’s worth noting that, in both cases, the promotion staffs deserve a lot of this credit,” says Peets. “The promotion staffs have worked their butts off on these bands, have taken a lot of ownership.”
So not only is it cool for fans and radio to be part of something that’s built from the ground up, the promotional staffs take a similar pride in ownership. “This is stuff they play in their cars, it’s something they take great pride in,” says Peets, adding that Q Prime South does have an in-house rock promotion staff backed by parent Q Prime in New York, while the Capitol/EMI team does the heavy radio promotion lifting on Church.
“The difference as a management company is we do have a rock radio promotion staff that is really involved in helping shepherd through the Black Keys, where we don’t have a country promotion staff, which is something we’re looking at building as we have some success here to reinforce what’s being done,” says Peets.
Having an in-house rock promo team is “just a function of being part of Q Prime, which was founded out of rock 30 years ago,” says Peets. “That was something I was able to inherit and use.”
As usual for successful management companies, Peets puts the focus squarely on the artists inspiring the staff. “We all take the same motivational pride, we live with these guys, it’s a big part of our life,” he says. “It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle and we all live and breathe it and we’ve been fortunate to have amazing artists to pour that energy into and it looks like it’s paying off.”