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Pollack Discusses Kongos
26
Jun
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:

Music Connection: 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 band?
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 the record.

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 we wanted.

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!