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New opportunities: interview with ... Sal Cirrincione.

New York City, like the other large cities in the country, has gone through many changes in the last quarter century. It has lost manufacturing jobs; now even the financial services industry seems on shaky ground. Many middle class residents have fled the city for the suburbs. Municipal finances are caught in the bind between rising needs and falling revenues. Much of urban America's infrastructure needs rebuilding. And perhaps most personally threatening, the perception that crime seems to be on the upswing has many people anxious.

But New York City still remains a world class city as a center of entertainment and the location of a thriving industry oriented around it. No other American city offers more live theatre: the magic of a Broadway show is internationally recognized, while off-Broadway productions indicate that there is still a place for the new, untried or even experimental offerings. What other city has as many ballet and dance companies, orchestras, opera companies, jazz clubs, discos and cabarets? While Hollywood and Los Angeles have the edge in television and movie production, New York does have important facilities. The variety of radio and television stations that can be heard within the New York metropolitan area demonstrates not only the size but also the diversity of the audience. In sum, New York still acts as a magnet for people, talent and enterprise in this broadly-defined area.

As an example of the persisting appeal of New York for entertainers and entertainment companies, and to show how new opportunities can open up, the Review of Business was fortunate enough to get an interview with Sal Cirrincione (himself an interviewer!), of Neer Perfect Productions in New York, (a company owned by Dan Neer, who is featured on radio station WNEW-FM).

Sal began by describing what Neer Perfect does and the particular area that it operates in. The company produces radio programs featuring well-known rock musicians and groups for syndication.

Review of Business (RoB): That sounds exciting! Can we have more elaboration please, especially of your role?

Sal Cirrincione (Sal): Simply put, I interview the artists and write the show. The end result is a two-hour show on the career of the artist or group which includes material from the interview, samples of the music and narration (by Dan Neer).

RoB: Then what happens to the show?

Sal: The final show is turned over to a syndicator who sells advertising space for the show and then distributes it to radio stations throughout the United States. Currently, our shows are heard on 250 stations.

RoB: I suppose these are specialized stations?

Sal: Right, it's the rock stations that are our primary market. In general, rock radio is geared towards a male listener aged between 25 and 34, because ratings indicate that most of a rock station's audience is made up of males in this age group. This is the sort of demographic information that is useful to advertisers, and therefore the ads will also be geared to appeal to this audience.

RoB: Let's go back to the actual programming. What's the reason for focusing on one particular person or group?

Sal: The show is called "Up Close," and we produce the shows usually when a new album is coming out. We don't feature "new finds," but rather concentrate on artists who have quite a catalogue of material-people like, for example, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and so on.

RoB: All the big names, in other words.

Sal: Pretty much so.

RoB: Once you know who's being featured, how do you set about the detailed work of doing each interview?

Sal: I start by researching the artist's career-which can be quite lengthy and involved for some of them, such as Dylan who's been around for a long time! Then I check to see what material we may already have on tape; depending on how much we have and what it covers, I then know how to direct my questions when I do the actual interview. For example, we're unlikely to have information on recent events or developments in the artist's life or career, and these would be something we'd want to ask about because they'd be of interest to the listeners.

After the interview, we go through a fairly intense period of editing, re-checking and refining, and deciding which songs to feature in the program.

RoB: This is obviously a specialized area. What is the size of the market? Isn't it big?

Sal: Although radio seems like a huge market, especially if you're travelling across state lines and keep picking up new stations, radio broadcasting is not that big in terms of the number of broadcasters involved. But what we ourselves do is very definitely in a niche market.

There are many production houses out there, most producing shows for particular types of radio, like top 40, country music, talk shows, jazz stations and so on. Then there are a much smaller number of syndicators, so competition for their attention is quite fierce. Fortunately, "Up Close" is an award winning program.

RoB: What award was this?

Sal: Billboard Radio Awards.

RoB: What sort of development can a show like this expect in the future?

Sal: It's hard to say, because we are so specialized. We try to expand by creating new shows, but it's tough to reinvent the wheel. Fortunately, we do have several good new ideas that we're working on that will be unveiled later this year and next.

RoB: Are there any interviews that you remember as being particularly good?

Sal: I personally found these most interesting-interviews with the Moody Blues, Robbie Robertson (formerly of The Band), Jon Bon Jovi, REM, Robyn Hitchcock, Ozzie Osbourne, Graham Parker...Really, there are too many to list.

RoB: Does any one interview stand out as unusual or distinctive in any way?

Sal: Oh Yes! One that I'll never forget is when I interviewed the Lifers' Group at Rahway State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey-the only interview where we had to pass through metal detectors and be frisked before we could meet our interview subjects! The Lifers' Group was nominated for a 1992 Grammy Award for the best long form video.

This group was really interesting. One of them, Maxwell Malvins, had previously participated in a production that ended up on television as "Scared Straight," a program which brought at-risk youngsters into the prison at Rahway in the hope that by seeing what it was actually like to be in prison, the myths about jail would be dispelled. Melvins was also concerned about the casual way in which prison is treated in some rap and popular music, so much so that it's romanticized if not glorified.

So he organized the Lifers' Group in conjunction with Dave "Funken-Klein," Director of the Hollywood Basic record label to produce the first rap music EP to be performed entirely by prisoners and the first to be recorded inside a prison.

The idea is simple: music reaches many more young people than the "Scared Straight" program ever could, so the point was to have kids on the inside rap to kids on the outside about prison life as it really is, and not some fictionalized version.

RoB: That must have taken a lot of organizing to accomplish.

Sal: Apparently it was a logistical nightmare-but the entire project was completed in three months. The end result is a four track EP that tries to really tell it like it is-in contrast to the glib hip-hop portrayal of groups like N.W.A. or Public Enemy and to the preachy rap that is also around. It's difficult to listen to, because it truly is a graphic, painful picture of prison painted by those on the inside, some of whom know they're never leaving, and it's not prettified.

We interviewed them in connection with the EP, and at the end of the interview, they performed some rap tunes exclusively for us, which made us feel very privileged.

RoB: That really is an interview with a difference! You probably never thought this was in the cards when you first started out.

Sal: No indeed. I graduated from St. John's in 1984 with a degree in communication arts and a minor in business. At first, I was a production assistant and producer for live station remote broadcasts for WNEW-FM, which was where I met Dan Neer. Then from 1987 to 1990, I was Promotion Director with radio stations in Connecticut before being contacted by Neer in 1990 to see if I was interested in joining his company, which of course I was. That was when I got into the radio production-syndication field. The rest is history.

RoB: I'm sure many readers think that you must have a glamorous life, meeting all these famous rock stars...

Sal: Maybe it sounds glamorous, but in this business, as in any other, it really does take a lot of hard work. I suppose it's a sign of our success that the end result looks so easy, and that we've hidden all the hard work that led to that end result.

RoB: Thank you for your time, and for showing us the upside of the New York City story.
COPYRIGHT 1992 St. John's University, College of Business Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Symposium: Urban Problems and Opportunities, New York City
Publication:Review of Business
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jun 22, 1992
Words:1534
Previous Article:The New York fiscal crisis.
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