SeagateCreative: For those of us who don’t know what a Product Manager is, can you explain what you do at Secretly Canadian? How does your role differ from the artist manager’s role in developing promotions and marketing for a record release or tour?
Jon Coombs: PM’s serve as the main contact for a roster of artists on the labels. I manage budgets, sales goals and campaign timelines while overseeing all the moving parts (radio, tours, press, marketing, etc.) of an album campaign.
SeagateCreative: What record releases have you worked on in the last year? And what do you have in the pipeline for us to look forward to?
Jon Coombs: This year I’ve worked on a variety of releases across all three labels. I’ve run point on… Porcelain Raft’s incredible debut, Strange Weekend. Damien Jurado’s 10th, and finest, LP, Maraqopa. Here We Go Magic’s Nigel Godrich produced A Different Ship and Antony and the Johnson’s career spanning collaboration with the Danish National Orchestra, Cut The World. Bear In Heaven’s debut for Dead Oceans, I Love You, It’s Cool. Moonface’s collaboration with Finnish prog-rockersSiinai, Heartbreaking Bravery and Black Mountain’s original soundtrack to the apocalyptic surf film, Year Zero. We’re rounding out the year with Jens Lekman’s first album in five years, I Know What Love Isn’t and I Bet On Sky by The Emperors Of Shreddington, aka Dinosaur Jr.
SeagateCreative: Part of your role is helping choose the team around a record release (publicist, radio promoter, marketing, tour promotions, etc). Do you have prerequisites for which you choose? What piece of advice can you give to a new band on how to pick their team?
Jon Coombs: The prereqs for choosing anyone to be a part of the team is that they are passionate about the band and the record. Someone who has a clear vision and a collaborative mentality will always turn out the best results for a band.
SeagateCreative: How important is developing a visual aesthetic and image to a record release? Do you typically coach artists on which direction to go?
Jon Coombs: It’s very important and one of my favorite parts of the job. It’s often a collaboration between the artist and the label team/PM. It’s inspiring to work with artists who have a clear vision for the aesthetics around a record (album cover, videos, etc). Case in point is Jens Lekman whose aesthetics are always on point. We see eye to eye on most aesthetic choices, which makes for a collaborative environment.
SeagateCreative: How important is album artwork? Are there any guidelines you use when choosing it? What are some of your favorite album covers you’ve worked on?
Jon Coombs: It’s usually the first thing the public learns about a record. It’s incredibly important. The only guideline for art is that it fit with the general sonic aesthetic of the album. I like when you can hear the record when looking at an album cover. Some of my favorite covers that I’ve worked on are Women’s s/t release, Bear In Heaven’s I Love You, It’s Cool, Jens Lekman’s I Know What Love Isn’t and Black Mountain’s Wilderness Heart.
SeagateCreative: Press photos can be hard for a band to conceptualize. How do you help an artist realize an idea for the photo? And how do you help them decide what image best represents their vibe? Can you give an example of a press photo you love and why it represents the band so well?
Jon Coombs: As with everything else, press photos should strive to match the general aesthetic around an album campaign. It’s completely subjective but you know when you’ve got a perfect press photo. Jens Lekman’s new press photos were taken the same day that the album cover was taken. They’re on the same sand dunes that the album cover photo was taken on. They fit perfectly with the Brill Building vibe that Jens is conjuring on the new record.
SeagateCreative: Can you make a great music video on a small budget? What are some of your favorite videos made in DIY spirit?
Jon Coombs: Yes. A massive budget isn’t needed to make a compelling and effective music video. One of my favorite videos of all time is Small Black’s ”Despicable Dogs.” It’s simple but potent. It flawlessly matches the sonics of the song and didn’t break the bank. It obviously helps to have friends who are willing to collaborate with artists as a passion project, too.