Nick Pellegrino Interview
President of Baccerstick Records

There’s a new kid in town!

Well, actually a new record label in the city of Nashville.

Baccerstick Records has opened its doors for business on Music Row.

Heading up the label is Nick Pellegrino. He will oversee all A and R activity, sales and marketing, public relations and promotion.

Nick’s background includes the development of Groove an American online music label; the vice-president of sales and marketing at Oh Boy Records; and placing numerous recordings as a singer/songwriter/musician/ producer on HGTV, the Food Network, USA Network, Fine Living and the ABC Family Channels.

Mr. Pellegrino talked with us about Baccerstick Records.

Q – Business must really be good for Country Music these days, but I just have to wonder if there are enough talented people out there to sign?
A – You know, there’s a bunch of talented people out there. There’s more than enough talented people to go around. There’s just not enough people who want to take a chance on talented people anymore. What’s been real cool in the last few years is the emergence of all these independent labels. What you’re finding is small labels that have a little bit of funding that find an artist they really believe in that are willing to invest in their career and not in just one song. Major labels find an artist and if that artist doesn’t hit on that first song it’s usually the end of it for them. Independents are able to find a talented person that we really believe in and invest in their career like they used to do, years ago.

Q – Are you then, competing with the major labels?
A – You know what? I don’t think we’re competing with the majors. I think that…..the bottom line is, I can’t spend money on the things the major labels spend money on. I’ve gotta be a little more creative with my marketing, strategies, and what I’m going after. I can go broke real quick if I try to play on the same field with those guys. The economies of it just don’t make sense for us. That being said, we certainly don’t have to sell as many records as the majors do to be successful. We’re trying to build a career for an artist, and not just have it be the kind of thing where we pour a bunch of money into one song and id it doesn’t happen-----it’s over. We really want to grow a career.

Q – How does an independent label “break” a record in today’s market?
A – Unlike the majors, we don’t have a full promotion staff, per se. We’ve hired a co. called CO5 Nashville. What they basically are is kind of a turn key operation for a promotion staff. We’ve got regional reps that take care of different regions in the United States. It’s like hiring a promotions staff, but not really hiring them. So, it’s not exactly an indie promoter type of thing. It’s like having your own staff without the overhead of employing four different regional reps. So, it’s a pretty interesting business model they’ve gotten and so far, for us it’s been pretty successful. We’re starting to see some results from it.

Q – Do you watch “American Idol”?
A – Yes I do.

Q – Would you have considered signing a Kellie Pickler or a Bucky Covington?
A – I would not, but I would consider signing them based on their exposure on ‘American Idol’. If I had seen them outside of ‘American Idol’ then, probably not. I wouldn’t have been impressed with either of them. But, you cannot deny the power of television. You’re talking about 46 million people watch that show on average. That’s pretty phenomenal. Even if a fraction of those people will go out and by the record-----well, that’s a homerun for anybody that would sign them. I think that’s why these guys are getting deals, not because anybody feels like they’re great artists. I’m not taking anything away from either one of those guys, but, it’s just a numbers game that you gotta play. It’s worth taking a chance on. See, usually when these kids’ sign on to do a show like ‘American Idol’, usually the production co. that does the show has an option to pick any of those people up whether they win or lose. What you’re finding is, a lot of these artists are getting picked up that way. Kellie Pickler got picked up by BNA Records which is part of the co. that does American Idol. It’s a no-brainer for those guys. She’s so popular on the show. Whether she’s a great singer or not, she’s got a great personality and she’s very, very popular with the fans. That being said, it’s harder for me to get my hands on the American Idol loser, if you will for lack of a better word, somebody who doesn’t win the show, than it is for me to go out and find somebody I really believe in. The interesting thing for us is our artist Jason Meadows was the first runner-up on Nashville Stars, third season. The difference for us is, we have been working with Jason before that for 2 years and we actually brought him onto the show to use as a venue for us to show the world, hey-----this guy is a star! I’m sure you know, it’s very difficult to get guys signed to major labels. We felt if we can get him on the Nashville Star show and if he just placed in the Top 3 or 4, it would be a great springboard for his career because of the numbers. Granted, Nashville Star has a far less viewer ship than American Idol does. We’re talking about 3 million as opposed to 50 million. But, even still, 3 million is a lot of people. The thing for us is, we were fortunate that Jason did not win, ‘cause then we were able to take a step back from that and say, ‘o.k. how can we make the most out of this exposure that he’s got already’? We decided the best thing for us to do would be to take some time, write the record, go out and make the great record we want and then after some time has gone by, then we launch him and hopefully some people will still remember who he was from the show. So far, so good. That show has really opened a lot of doors for him, and given him a step up on some new artist that has come out, especially with radio. If you call a radio station about a new artist, most of the time they have no idea who it is. In this case because of the television exposure it gave Jason that at least got him into the doors to the radio stations. So, it’s really been a great leg-up for us for new artists.

Q – Since you’re a singer/songwriter, if someone walks into Baccerstick with a demo tape, will you listen to it or do you have to go through a music attorney or an established manager?
A – I prefer that it comes through somebody that I know and have a relationship with. The only reason why is just legally it creates a lot of situations if somebody were just to walk off of the street and hand me a CD, well God forbid somewhere down the line, something that I’m working with has anything that remotely resembles that CD. Then I’m in a situation where, ‘I gave you that CD 3 years ago. That’s my idea. You stole my idea’. So, it’s kind of a grey area. That being said, because I’ve spent most of my adult life being on the other side of the desk and the other side of the door, I’m pretty open to listening to anything anybody gives to me. Even if I get something in the mail that’s unsolicited, I’ll open it up and listen to it. You know what? You never know when that one CD is gonna come in that nobody knows about.

Q – Has anyone walked through your doors with a guitar and asked for an on spot audition?
A – Well, not yet. As a label, we’ve only been open for business here on Music Row since September (2006). It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve had plenty of people come up and knock on the door and walk in with a CD. I don’t like to sit and listen when the artist is sitting there. It creates an uncomfortable situation for me and the artist. I usually get back to everybody who drops something off. I feel like you have to give people that respect. Even if you’re not interested you gotta be able to pick up the phone and say, ‘you know what? I think what you’re doing is really good. It’s just not for me right now’. Again, that comes from me being on the other side of it for so long, and wanting that respect from other people.

Q – What’s the significance of the name of your co.-----Baccerstick Records?
A – My partner had a tobacco farm at one point, and in the south tobacco is baccer. It’s kind of a slay for tobacco. They have these long hickory sticks that they hang the tobacco on to dry, and that’s a baccerstick. So, that’s what the name came from. Does it sound like a name an Italian guy from New York would call his record label? (Laughs).

Q – No, it doesn’t.
A – Its interesting. I had no clue what it was ‘til I met my partner. Sounds pretty cool and certainly is something people remember.

Q – As President of the co. do you have a daily routine?
A – Holley Guidry is the p.r. arm of what we’re doing. They take care of all of the press. Then we’ve got our promotions staff. All of the other stuff is kind of done in-house. My partner and his wife and myself and my wife are the full principals of the co. My partner is the Chief Executive Officer. He’s pretty much responsible for the financial end of everything we do. He oversees all of the accounting-----how much money goes out, how much money goes in. That being said, he has a Big Voice in all of the creative stuff we do as well. His wife Heather and my wife are responsible pretty much for all of the creative stuff that comes out of here. Anything you see, whether it be videos, photo shoots, right down to album artwork; everything that is visual, everything that comes out of our co. like that goes through my wife Jeanine and partner Kerry’s wife, Heather. We’ve just recently started a video production arm of the co. that Heather will head up. To answer your question, I don’t have a specific day. I don’t have a specific day. I don’t come in and say, ‘Here’s what I’m gonna work on today’. You come here and whatever comes in that day is pretty much what you’re gonna work on. Naturally, there are things I need to take care of everyday. On Monday we’ll having a meeting with the Promotion Staff and talk about what developments have happened in radio that week. Usually, once a week, we’ll have the whole staff meeting where we just get everybody together whether in-person or a conference call and just up-date each other on where everybody is, what each other is working on, just so we’re all on the same page and we’re all aware of what the others have got cookin’.

Q – So, you’re basically over-seeing everything is what you’re telling me.
A – Pretty much, yeah. Of all the principals of the co. I’m the only one with the most experience in the record business. So, I guess I’m the one that they come to for the answers when it comes to that stuff. Most of the time I’ve seen if before, to some extent. If I haven’t, I can usually pick up the phone and talk to any number of people that I’ve worked with in the past who can give me an answer right away.

Q – Tell me if I’m right or wrong about this: I detect an under-current of resentment against “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood. Maybe the feeling among industry veterans is she hasn’t paid her dues. What are you hearing?
A – You know what? I can’t really speak for other artists. I’m not in their heads. I don’t know what people are thinking. It’s a different world out there for music in general. Right across the board, no matter what genre. Things can happen literally overnight because the world is so connected right now, what with television and the Internet right now. It’s not like it was 20 years ago when a lot of these artists were starting off. It’s not like it was a year ago when you really think about it. The world is moving so fast right now and technology is almost getting away from some people. I’m sure that if I were an artist that spent 20 years building my career and I see this girl come along and all of the sudden in one year, she’s the biggest selling act in music, of any genre-----that would probably be very frustrating. At the same time, you cannot deny that this girl is an incredible singer and she made a great record. So, regardless of all that other stuff, however anybody might feel about it, you can’t deny that these are great songs and she’s singing her butt off. She’s beautiful. She’s young. She has everything that an ‘American Idol’ is supposed to have. She has all the qualities that they’re looking for. Regardless of what genre of music it is-----you can’t deny it. The girl has got everything it takes to be a superstar.

Q – You have to wonder had there been no “American Idol”, would an independent label have given Carrie Underwood a chance?
A – The world has gotten so instant and user friendly right now, especially in America, everybody wants everything yesterday. That goes across the board with everything, music included. There are artists out there right now that are superstars that didn’t ‘break’ until their third album. Well, artists don’t get that opportunity anymore. The music has become such a huge behemoth and has to feed all those different entities, and create so much revenue just to launch an artist, that if you don’t have a hit out of the box, then it’s over. So, when it does happen like this, it happens on a large scale and that’s what I think has happened with Carrie Underwood. And again, it’s a great record and she’s a great singer. Would it have been the same if it were not for ‘American Idol’? Absolutely not. If she had come to Nashville she probably would have had to been here several years before people would have taken her seriously. If it weren’t for ‘American Idol’, I’m not saying it wouldn’t have happened for her-----it would not have happened the way it has.

Q – Since you’re the head of a record co. will records ever make a comeback?
A – When I was a kid the most exciting thing for me was to get an album. To go into the store and get an album. I’m sure I was a little more intense about it than most people. I knew everybody that played on every record. By the time I listened to it 3 times, I knew who produced it. I knew the people at the label they would thank. I recognized every name from reading records. Will that ever come back? I don’t know, man. For a lot of music today, even CD’s have gone away. I think that’s one of the things about country music, if you look at all the statistics of all the different genres of music, right now digital sales only account for about 20 percent of country music sales, whereas other genres you’re talking 80 percent sometimes. The reason being, I don’t think country people want to get their music that way, at least not all of them. People still want to go to the store and buy a CD and hold something in their hand and read the lyrics and look at the pictures. Granted it’s a lot smaller than L.P’s were when I was 12, I think country people still want that. They find more of a connection with an artist that way. I don’t want to say country listeners aren’t text savy to download music, but younger kids are downloading more music than anyone. Primarily the demographic for country listeners is not the same as Pop which is probably attributed to a lot of the digital sales not being as much as Pop as well. That would be great if albums came back wouldn’t it?!!

© Gary James All Rights Reserved