Interview with Kongos manager MARC POLLACK of The MGMT Company
By MC Senior Editor, Mark Nardone
Music Connection located Pollack in Europe, where he was on a promo
tour with the band:
So you’re on the road with the band right now?
Marc Pollack: I’m with the band, we’re in Madrid, Spain,
where we’re doing a little promo tour. Berlin, Munich, London
and Amsterdam, then we fly back to the States for Firefly.
MC: What initially attracted
you to Kongos? Why did you feel you should invest your time in this
Pollack: I’ve been managing now for a long time. I haven’t
signed a new band, an artist that’s not established, in 2 and
a half years. I got a call from a trusted friend of mine from Europe
who’d seen them perform in South Africa. He gave me a heads-up
that they were doing a small U.S. tour and would be in L.A. at a certain
date at The Viper Room. I took his word and checked them out and I thought
they were great.
MC: What made you decide
this band was signable?
Pollack: I wanted to sign them because I saw something different in
them. It’s special, it combines African sounds with some European
sounds. It’s just not what you hear out there right now. Funny
story: I was intrigued, so I tried to get some information from their
sound guy, y’know, investigating a little bit, making sure nobody
in the band was, you know, screwed up on drugs or anything like that.
Well, it turned out the sound guy I was putting all these questions
to was their Dad! So I almost put my foot in my mouth before I even
signed them! (laughs)
MC: Was there a “courtship
period” before you actually offered to manage them?
Pollack: That night, I met them and expressed interest. But they’re
smart guys and they weren’t just gonna go on one meeting, “Yes,
we’re in.” There was a process of me wooing them, to a certain
degree. I have a sister who lives in Phoenix, so when they went back
there I visited the band, went over to the Kongos’ house and we
talked, and basically we agreed that we would work together. From that
point on it’s been kinda special, the whole rise to success has
come so unexpectedly. Radio, in particular, has jumped on “Come
With Me Now” so quickly that a lot of our job now is to catch
up to the radio picture.
MC: Because Kongos already
had made a completed album, with a couple of potential hit singles,
and had verified success in a couple of radio markets––all
on their own when they were unsigned––did that give you
more leverage going in to negotiate a deal with labels like Epic Records?
Pollack: Two things: one, using South Africa as a “test market,”
for lack of a better term, I was aware that the band already had had
success with a couple of songs on the album, both on radio and in sales.
With that in my pocket, I knew we had real potential to offer. Number
two is, The MGMT Company has its own radio promotion department and
it was our department that basically got the song played in Chicago
and Denver, and we noticed that when that was happening, sales were
also happening in both those markets. So it was reacting great. And
then Philadelphia came on and word started spreading throughout the
Clear Channel chain and various other radio stations. And before we
knew it, we’re getting played in more than a handful of stations.
That was before we signed our [Epic] deal.
MC: And that’s so unusual
these days, to have a rock band be so strong at radio.
Pollack: Very unusual. So our promotion team got the ball rolling and
then we started getting offers. Kind of an old-school bidding war, fueled
by the fact that people knew they already had a hit on their hands,
or at least the potential for a hit. It gave us a feeling of power in
that negotiation, knowing we already had an album completed and ready
to go certainly helped in the negotiation, because we knew we weren’t
gonna need X amount of dollars to make the record. So that kind of money
could go into marketing and promotion and various other things. So it
was a pretty good deal for Epic, considering we were able to hand them
MC: Can you talk a little
about the Epic deal? For example, does the Epic deal entail the band
owning its own master recordings at some point?
Pollack: Because of the position we were in we were able to better dictate
the terms of the contract than if Kongos were a new band being a full
risk for the label. We’re pretty happy with our selection there.
The Epic team has been itching for a rock hit for a while. When I first
got into the business, Epic had been the home to Rage Against The Machine,
Korn, Oasis and several others. Epic, they were breaking rock left and
right. So I think a return to what they’re used to is a nice thing;
they’re really excited about what we have here.
Kongos mgmt2MC: Let’s
talk about the upcoming Kings of Leon tour that Kongos will be on. Is
an opening slot on a major tour like that a lucrative situation for
a band like Kongos?
Pollack: Without getting into details on what we make a night, the way
I look at it is, if we can get in front of 10,000 to 15,000 Kings of
Leon fans a night––even if one-tenth of those people turn
into Kongos fan––it’s better than going on a club
tour needing tour support, y’know? Especially when we’re
targeting the same audience as them. I’m pretty excited about
that tour, not to mention the obvious coincidence between the bands,
with Kongos being all brothers. It’s a cool “family”
aspect to the tour. When I heard KOL were looking for support on their
tour, my agent and I immediately went for it. We knew that was what
MC: Is your company open
to submissions by artists? What is your policy and m.o. when it comes
to seeking new artists and bands that you might want to handle?
Pollack: We have several managers and junior managers within the company
who do various things in that regard, since my ability to go out to
clubs and so forth is fairly limited. But if something is catching our
eye, we will jump on it. We have several bands like that who have been
huge online. We’re always open. Finding Kongos was one of the
most exciting things ever, and we’re now riding this thing. Right
now I’m in Madrid on a promo tour with them. C’mon! How
much better does it get than that!